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Author: Annie Bostrom
Newspaper: Booklist Online
Date: Feb 22 2017

A couple, married with two young kids, is in crisis in 1970s Naples in Starnone’s (First Execution, 2009) prizewinning, thirteenth novel. We learn of Aldo’s estrangement from his family through the letters his wife, Vanda, writes to him then, before the novel quickly shifts to Aldo’s narration of the present day. He and Vanda are together; their children are grown—if reluctantly; and Aldo has achieved enough success to, combined with Vanda’s relentless penny-pinching, afford them a beautiful home in Rome. They return from a week’s vacation to find their apartment ransacked, the pieces of their life literally broken and scattered on every surface. Their minimal valuables are still there, but Vanda is bereft that their beloved cat is gone, while Aldo discovers, to his horror, that the beautiful box where he kept private, tender remembrances of his betrayal is now empty. Both a whodunit and a who-did-what-when, Starnone’s emotional novel of a family’s constantly fluctuating sum of its stubborn parts is translated with care and fluency by Pulitzer-winning Lahiri, who wrote her memoir, In Other Words (2016), in Italian.