This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Me and You by Niccolò Ammaniti

This was a quick read at only 154 pages long. It is an Italian novel translated to, of course, English. I found this fairly recently on a site that suggested a few books to read this summer (I can't seem to recall the site, nor can I find the list). As usual, I couldn't remember the essence of the story, which is what I like.

***Spoiler alert. It's a quick read. I suggest, if you haven't read it to stop reading further, check out the book and come back and read the rest of my review.***

The story opens in Cividale del Friuli, in Northern Italy, with someone sitting in a cafe sipping coffee, and opening a letter that they receiving 10 years earlier from their sister.

The novel then goes back 10 years and we meet Lorenzo, who is a young boy who is odd. Another character who appears to be socially awkward - he pretends to be like the kids around him just so they leave him alone. He's smart enough to tell counselors what they want to hear, so they can leave him alone. And he ends up pretending to go on a skiing trip with kids from school, who he is not friends with, just to please his mother, because she's sad he doesn't have any friends.

He wants to tell her the truth but she cried with happiness that he was invited on the trip so he hides in the cellar of his own home for the week. So he doesn't have the heart to tell her the truth and just goes with his own ruse.

His half-sister Olivia surprises him with a visit. He doesn't want her around, for fear that she will blow his cover. Except that she's also dealing with her own issues. He can't quite figure it out at first: is she sick? Does she have the flu? Pneumonia? Eventually, he figures it out and confirms it when he finds the syringes in her purse. She's having withdrawals from a drug addiction.

He doesn't know her very well as Olivia is from his dad's first marriag and is nine years older...and doesn't get along with their dad. But, during one evening, she tells Lorenzo a story about how, when he was just a young boy wearing armbands to keep him afloat in the water, someone mentioned to their dad that the best way to teach a kid to swim is to just throw them into the water, without the armbands.

So their dad snuck behind him, while he was playing with toys (on a boat) and took him, kicking and screaming, and threw him into the water. He sunk. And then their dad had to dive in after him to get him out.

His mom wasn't around because she would surely have murdered their dad for pulling such a stunt. But after such screaming and crying, he fell he'd been given an 'anesthetic'. So Olivia lay next to him.

"Me and you?"
Yes." She took a drag of her cigarette. "Me and you." 
Hence, the title of this story.

The book is a great story, just reading about Lorenzo and his maddening mind. But it's the point when Olivia comes to his world that it changes and becomes THE story that just translates into something more special.

Those two lines that I quote just moved me. No, not to tears...just beautiful and simple and poetic.

The book it one big sort of poem. Not really. The style reminded me so much of the type that the writers from QRB Teen Writing Club write. Just good storytelling with a morbid twist at the end.

Remember, the story started ten years later with someone at the cafe. That someone was Lorenzo. When the week was up at the cellar with Olivia, Olivia was the one who left Lorenzo a letter and that letter was what that someone was reading in Northern Italy at the opening of the book. 

In the letter, she asks Lorenzo to keep his promise. That promise being that they see each other again. And he is - ten years later in Cividale del Friuli. You'll have to read the book to see how it ends. I'm not spoiling it that much.

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