Published by Grove/Atlantic Inc
Out February 7, 2012
Lorenzo Cuni is a fourteen-year-old loner. His wealthy parents think he is away on a school skiiing trip, but in fact he has stowed away in a forgotten cellar. For a week he plans to live in perfect isolation, keeping the adult world at bay. Then a visit from his estranged half-sister, Olivia, changes everything.
The story is set mainly in Rome in the year 2000, and though I’d love to read about the beauty of Rome, most of the scenery mentioned is that of the forgotten cellar that Lorenzo retreats to for one week. The cellar is dank and musty and yet to Lorenzo, nothing could be better. This is where the reader finds out much of Lorenzo’s life. He is an outcast in school and when he hears of the popular kids going skiing for a week he desperately wants to go as well (he tricks his mother into thinking he went skiing with said popular kids). Not only does Lorenzo really like to ski, he’s good at it and he wants to show everyone else that he is too. Readers young and old can relate to this part of the story easily. There is a point in adolecense and even adulthood where one is stuck trying to find oneself and Niccolò Ammaniti emulates that feeling very well through Lorenzo. Seeing things as Lorenzo sees them is quite gripping especially when Olivia, reluctantly, comes to stay in the cellar with him. The story is not only about adolecense and finding a place where one belongs, it is also about family, addiction, and broken promises.
Lorenzo and Olivia’s characters seem completely different at a first glance. Lorenzo is just a fourteen-year-old boy hanging out in a cellar for a peaceful week of video game playing, while Olivia is frantically searching for money in all of her old boxes to fulfill her addiction to drugs. Although both characters went to the cellar to find two completely different things, they both left the cellar with an infinite understanding of one another. Lorenzo’s character is so strong for a fourteen-year-old, dealing with the lack of friends, a sister whom he hardly knows and desperately needs to help, and yet, it is very believable because he is still vulnerable.
Lastly, the quality of writing that Ammaniti puts on display is superb. It is simplistic and real and there certainly is not anything I question while reading except, maybe, “Why can’t I write like that?”
Overall: Add this one to your queue of books to read. This is a well-written novel and definitely deserves a read. Like I said before, readers young and old will like this book not only because of the quality but also because of how relatable the story really is.