The First True Lie

Marina Mander, Author
Marina Mander, trans. from the Italian by Stephen Twilley. Random/Hogarth, $13 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-770-43685-8
Reviewed on: 10/07/2013
Release date: 01/21/2014
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-0-7704-3686-5
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-306-32221-8
Hardcover - 192 pages - 978-0-85786-549-6
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Mander’s English-language debut is narrated by the ebullient Luca, whose voice is every bit as engaging as the best child narrators out there: imagine a blend of Oskar (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Blue (Special Topics in Calamity Physics), and Christopher Boone (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). This slim novel smartly focuses on the cranks and gears of Luca’s imagination. The child—who lives alone with his depressed mother and his “amazing” cat, Blue—is hiding a terrible secret: his mother won’t wake up. Luca’s fear of being an orphan is greater than his fear of living with his mother’s dead body, even as it decomposes. This decomposition also kick-starts the meandering plot, and keeps it from straying too far into the weeds of poetic, childlike free association. Luca’s choices can be unbelievable, and, as the book progresses, hard to stomach, but his whimsical take on the world will keep the pages turning. At its worst, the contrast between verbal whimsy and the blunt facts of the dead mother in the other room feels hyperliterary, like a writing prompt taken too far. But at its best, Luca’s original voice will break your heart. Ultimately, Luca’s story offers a buoyant picture of hope in the face of disaster, and life in the face of death. (Jan.)
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