Life in an Italian village like San Benedetto has inoculated Etto against joining the chatter about leaving, against being a 'big talker in a long line.' It seems that those who do talk the talk or walk the talk either never leave or can't help but eventually return. Hence Etto's reluctance to contemplate sketching big dreams. This is one of the truths that this 22 year old contemplates. There are as we discover other reasons.
Revolving around soccer or calcio as it known in Italy, 'The Sun and Other Stars' is a tale of the experience of being lost, of disassociation after loss. And of finding yourself, of returning to life, of letting the small things and larger things of life, of rediscovered and new loves, warm you and restore you as surely as the sun does bringing warmth into your very bones. A story of hope, beautifully crafted by Pasulka.
How Etto, and subsequently his papa find life again after tragedy and loss (the death of his brother and later his mother), how this has scarred him, his papa, and their relationship, is intensely presented. Etto's story is told through a patina of displacement as through a glass darkly. We hover with him on the edge of his feelings. We soar with him as he sketches his loss and rage on the vaulted ceiling of the closed school. It's only as Etto becomes part of the visiting Ukranians that he starts to live again. Yuri Fil, a Ukrainian player is awaiting charges for match fixing. He has chosen San Benedetto to lie low in, away from the paparazzi. Yuri plays with the Genoan soccer team and is Etto's papa's hero. Etto meets him by way of Yuri's sister up on the playing field above the village where his brother Luca is buried. Etto is enamoured with Zhuki. These people, these strangers, pull him into their lives. And it is with them that Etto begins to come alive. We begin to really see him, and he begins to see himself.
Pasuika's eye for the Italian village life is finely wrought.
I loved the Nonne's. They are everywhere overseeing the life of the village. A powerful, yet somehow endearing group. The telegraph line of the town, all seeing, all knowing!
The village men at Martina's bar, their camaraderie, their deep addiction, nay bone deep, gut response to the game of calcio is brilliantly alive as only those who have experienced the true attachment to the game by its fans can know. It's palpable!
Through Etto's eyes we are privy to the town's life. Something the tourists who overrun the town during the season never see. We readers are at one with the villagers. We feel their pain and their life.
The circle of soccer, of calcio, makes it all happen. The village is a large family and through Etto, his family and old and new friends that we become part of it.
When you finish and reflect on the story, and consider its title in the light of all that you've read, you realize how apt the title is. And you breath a simple, Yes!
A NetGalley ARC