Veronesi’s seventh but first to appear in the US is a true pleasure as a man’s life seems to be falling apart—but then doesn’t.
Gianni Orzan is a prize-winning children’s author who lives in Rome (in an apartment with a great view), has a beloved son of eight, and is happily married. On the downside? Well, for one thing, he’s blocked on his next book (he writes about a little kid, Pizzano Pizza), and, for another, his father has very recently died. A difficult time, in other words, but not disastrous. But then a cab driver taking Gianni home one night—with a gun showing under his belt—makes a casual but intimately true remark about the beloved son, and Gianni takes it as a veiled threat: he jumps from the cab, tells the cops, and moves wife and son—for safe keeping—out of the city. When the cabby appears at Gianni’s door—with gun, but also with the computer and valise that Gianni left in the cab—it starts to seem that things aren’t as they appeared. Over many never-sensational but ever-interesting pages, the cabby works Gianni over—with no blows but words only, trying to make him accept the truth he bears: that Gianni’s father was Russian, not Italian, that after WWII he took the identity of a doomed man named Orzan and spent the rest of his days as a deep-cover agent for the Russians. Does the bottom fall out of Gianni’s life? No, but almost. It will take a beautiful woman, a Vespa accident, and revelation of an infidelity before the sinister cabby—actually a great guy, Gianni’s second father, more like—can make all things happy and safe once again.
Gianni is a splendid talker in this sophisticated tale of his own privacies: it’s like passing a splendid few hours in a comfortable bar with a long-missed best friend.