by Paolo Giordano
translated by Anne Milano Appel, 2015
Viking / Pamela Dorman Books
Like Family is one of those quiet novels, its lens focused on the nuances of married life and the erosion that can happen within a relationship. And it captures this dynamic brilliantly and succinctly in this 146-page novel, translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel.
This is the story of a couple who hire a housekeeper during the wife’s difficult pregnancy; Mrs. A. (referred to affectionately as Babette) remains with the family as a nanny to their son until he is six. During that time, she becomes their rock and (according to the publisher’s description), “the glue in their small household. She is the steady, maternal influence for both husband and wife, and their son, Emanuele, whom she protects from his parents’ expectations and disappointments.” When she is diagnosed with cancer, the couple is devastated.
Much of the story is told from some point in the future, a device that works well. The writing in this simple book is gorgeous.
“Mrs. A. was the only real witness of the enterprise we embarked on day after day, the sole observer of the bond that held us together, and when she talked about Renato, it was as if she wanted to suggest something that has to do with us, to pass along the instructions for a relationship that had been perfect and pure, albeit doomed and brief. In the long run, every love needs someone to witness and acknowledge it, to validate it, or it may turn out to be just a mirage. Without her gaze we felt at risk.” (pg. 17)
“But there are some conversations between people in love that, once you cross a certain threshold, inevitably draw you into their dark center.” (pg. 87)
“We live in anticipation, constantly waiting for something that will free us from the burden of the present, without taking into account new ones that will arise. If these really are our best years, I’m not satisfied with how we’re using them.” (pg. 87-88)
I loved Paolo Giordano’s previous book, The Solitude of Prime Numbers. As with that one, Like Family is one that will stay with me for some time.
This is post #92 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.