A troubled young man travels the world on a quest to find himself in Valletta’s (Lightning Storm, 2017, etc.) latest novel.
Anthony Gianni “Tony” Schiavone idles his way through the last years of high school in the “small, suburban town of my birth,” avoiding his father’s ire and dreaming of the writer’s life. He’s spiritually empty, aching for something greater than his small Pennsylvanian hometown can provide, so when he gets the chance to travel the world, he grabs it with both hands. Tony spends the two years after high school graduation exploring Europe and the outskirts of Asia in search of meaning and companionship. He almost finds it in Greece, settling temporarily into a job at a bakery and starting his first novel, before the itch to travel gets him moving again. His whistle-stop tour concludes in the rolling green of the Emerald Isle, where Tony chances into the lives of the gregarious O’Malley family. Ireland proves to be a perfect place to reminisce on his journey and may even provide him the solace that he’s been seeking—in the form of the O’Malleys’ flame-haired daughter, Miranda. Valletta’s account of Tony’s journey offers a strangely quaint view of Europe, comprised of small towns, sheep-choked country roads, and America-loving citizens. His version of Ireland, in particular, seems to owe more to the 1970 David Lean–directed film Ryan’s Daughter than real life, characterizing Irish people as ruddy, romantic boozers, prone to summarizing the Troubles. Other inaccuracies litter the novel—such as the fact that American hot chocolate and angel-hair pasta are both available in small Irish shops—and these damage the verisimilitude of the story, as does Tony’s apparent irresistibility to the opposite sex. Valletta does have an eye for evocative description, as when a tree sways “to one side like a ballerina stretching in a breeze of soft harmony.” Even though some of the more purple prose threatens to overwhelm the story at times, it still reflects the narrator’s fledgling talent.
A meandering read which perfectly portrays the solipsism of youth.