Set on a breathtaking Italian island peopled with soccer fanatics, Pasulka’s novel chronicles a young man coming to terms with the loss of his mother and brother. A chance encounter with a disgraced Ukrainian soccer star and his beautiful sister and the deep friendship that follows may be exactly what Etto, the narrator, needs to begin to live again.
Soccer, a sun-drenched Italian island, tragedy, romance, redemption, this novel has it all! While two great tragedies have colored the life of Etto, the 22 year old narrator, this book is not tragic. It is a story of how we begin again, not only after a death, but after habits have been hardened into old age, after misunderstandings, after making mistakes. This book does not gloss over the realities of heartache, rather it chooses to focus on our ability to pick up the pieces and reassemble a different, still beautiful, life.
I love so much about this book. I love the swaggering, soccer-loving old men of the island, who congregate in bars to gossip and talk sports; I love the topography of the island, its steep hills, parched gardens, and the ever-present sea; I love the tight-knit community filled with bright and loving characters; and I love that the author chooses to use Italian curse words instead of their American counterparts (now, although I know a handful of Italian from reading this book, my vocabulary is almost exclusively wildly inappropriate for small talk). However, what I love most about this book is how much it makes me want to engage fully in the world. I want to play soccer! Eat good food! Make friends with interesting people! Live a passionate life! Great books should inspire us to live, and this particular novel certainly does that. So go out, right now, and find this book. You won’t regret it.