The First True Lie by Marina Mander
Release Date: January 21st 2014
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
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An utterly compelling, heartbreaking novel that introduces a revelatory young voice to the U.S. market.
Meet Luca, a curious young boy living with his mother, a taciturn woman who "every now and then tries out a new father." Luca keeps to himself, his cat, Blue, and his words--his favorite toys. One February morning his mom doesn't wake up to bring him to school, so Luca--with a father who's long gone and driven by a deep fear of being an orphan ("part of you is missing and people only see the part that isn't there")--decides to pretend to the world that his mom is still alive. Luca has a worldly comprehension of humanity, and grapples with his gruesome situation as the stench of the rotting body begins to permeate his home.
But this remarkable narrative is not insufferably morbid. Luca also pretends that Blue is his personal assistant and that they're on an expedition in outer space together; he goes for observant trips to the store, where he uses the contents of a basket to astutely assess the person who's filled it; he fantasizes about marrying his school crush, Antonella (whose freckles on her nose are described as being a pinch of cinnamon on whipped cream.)
Ultimately, we are witness to something much more poignant that needs no translation: the journey of a young boy deciding--in a more devastating manner than most--to identify himself independently, reaching the point at which he can say: "I am no longer an orphan. I am a single human being. It's a matter of words."
This is a short story that follows around a 6 year old boy named Luca. Luca lives in an apartment with his mother and his cat named Blue. His mother is a very depressed woman who is constantly trying to find a father for Luca. However every time she falls in love it ends. One morning Luca’s mother doesn’t wake up. Luca decides that he will get himself ready and go to school on his own for the first time. His mother still isn’t awake when he gets home though. The last thing Luca wants is to become an orphan. When Luca finally realizes that his mother isn’t going to get up he decides that his going to continue on like nothing is wrong. He goes to school, to the store, and even has play dates with his friends.
I could see a child doing this at first, but to continue on for a couple weeks like this?! I don’t think so. Especially when she starts to stink. In the story, Luca is portrayed as a very smart child. He loves words, especially curse words. This just seemed over the top to me. I have a six year old son and I couldn’t see him doing any of those things. The entire book is told from Luca’s point of view but this could have easily been an adult most of the time. Every once in a while he would do something to remind you he is just a kid though.
That was my one major problem with the book. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was reading from the pov of a 6 year old and it just didn’t feel like it. The writing in the book is really good though. It flows and really just packs a punch. Another thing I wasn’t crazy about was the ending. It was very open ended. During the story, in a couple different instances, it seems as the though the story is being remembered, rather than happening right then. I really wanted to know what happened to Luca and where his life was going to go from there. I do like a concrete ending so this was a little frustrating.
I had actually put this book down at one point but decided since it was so short that I had no excuse not to finish it. I really think that if the writing in this book hadn’t of been good, I would not have finished this book. However, if you are a fan of literary fiction type books and you don’t mind open endings then you might want to give this book a go since it is so short. Just remember, it is pretty sad.
*This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.