cover image The Sun and Other Stars

The Sun and Other Stars

Brigid Pasulka. Simon & Schuster, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4516-6711-0

What do you do if everyone in your little town is obsessed with soccer, and you couldn’t care less? If all the guys your age are out chasing girls, and you’re hopelessly socially awkward? And if those are just the irritations atop the real injuries—your soccer-star twin brother died in a car crash, your mother killed herself afterward, and you and your father work together in the family butcher shop but never talk? The torments to which Pasulka subjects Etto, the 22-year-old protagonist of her second novel (after A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True), occur in San Benedetto, a beautiful tourist town on the Italian Riviera; it’s close-knit but suffocating, and Etto wants to leave, but is afraid to. And then a stranger comes to town, his father’s favorite soccer player, scandal-clouded Ukrainian Yuri Fil, whose entourage includes his equally soccer-mad and -skilled sister, Zhuki. The resulting complications could easily have been cloyingly “heartwarming,” but Pasulka avoids cliché with some lovely writing (Etto, falling for Zhuki, decides her name sounds like “the waves foaming up on the beach in the winter”), well-placed low humor, and specificity of place. Readers will be crossing their fingers for Etto to find some well-deserved happiness. Agent: Wendy Sherman, Wendy Sherman Associates. (Feb.)