Set in a seaside village on the Italian Riviera, this irresistible new novel by PEN/Hemingway Award-winner Brigid Pasulka tells the story of a widowed butcher and his son whose losses are transformed into love.
After losing his brother and mother within a year, twenty-two-year-old Etto finds himself adrift in his hometown, where every man’s life revolves around soccer, except for his. Frustrated and lonely, Etto is faced with the seemingly impossible prospect of cobbling together the remaining pieces of his life, including his mostly nonexistent relationship with his father, the town butcher.
Things begin to change for Etto when Yuri Fil, a scandal-ridden Ukrainian soccer star and his tough-love sister, Zhuki, arrive in town, and sweep him into their universe of soccer, celebrity, laughter, and fierce loyalty. Under their influence, Etto begins to reconstruct his relationship with his father and learns a few life lessons: that perhaps the game of soccer isn’t just a waste of time—and that San Benedetto, his father, love, and life itself might have more to offer him than he ever believed possible.
Hardcover, 336 pagesExpected publication: February 4th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
I won this ARC as part of a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
If I were to have rated this based on the first half of the story it would have had a three star rating and if I were to have rated it based only on the last half it would have received a four star rating. I compromised and gave it a 3.5.
If you are not a fan of soccer or calcio as described in this book then this may not be the read for you. This storyline is heavy on soccer and soccer references. I in fact found it humorous that it mentioned that everyone has a love and appreciation for the sport unless you are American. While I am Canadian I can attest that it is the same case where I am. I simply could not understand the fascination with the sport in the book or in real life for that matter. With this in mind those who can push past all of the soccer will be rewarded in the end.
The book started very slow. You could not tell where it was heading and if you were really interested in what would occur with Etto. I found myself struggling to get through the beginning and not as lost in the pages as I normally get when reading a new story. I am so glad I stuck with it because as soon as Yuri entered the picture the book completely turned around for me. The story came to life and I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next.
Without giving away the plot this story ended up being less about soccer and more about learning to live again, the ties of a community, family and moving beyond grief. It was a lesson in learning to appreciate what you have by embracing something new. This was the winning message within the pages.
The bottom line is if you can get past all of the soccer talk and soccer references as they are numerous you will be rewarded with a sweet story with a good message. I still have no plans to watch a soccer match or pick up a soccer ball however I can now at least appreciate just a little of what it's sense of tradition and community it has for others.