Monday, January 20, 2014

[Book Review] The First True Lie

The First True Lie
By Marina Mander
January 21, 2014
Psychological, Drama


Meet Luca, a curious young boy living with his mother, a taciturn woman who "every now and then tries out a new father." Luca keeps to himself, his cat, Blue, and his words--his favorite toys. One February morning his mom doesn't wake up to bring him to school, so Luca--with a father who's long gone and driven by a deep fear of being an orphan ("part of you is missing and people only see the part that isn't there")--decides to pretend to the world that his mom is still alive. Luca has a worldly comprehension of humanity, and grapples with his gruesome situation as the stench of the rotting body begins to permeate his home.

But this remarkable narrative is not insufferably morbid. Luca also pretends that Blue is his personal assistant and that they're on an expedition in outer space together; he goes for observant trips to the store, where he uses the contents of a basket to astutely assess the person who's filled it; he fantasizes about marrying his school crush, Antonella (whose freckles on her nose are described as being a pinch of cinnamon on whipped cream.)
Ultimately, we are witness to something much more poignant that needs no translation: the journey of a young boy deciding--in a more devastating manner than most--to identify himself independently, reaching the point at which he can say: "I am no longer an orphan. I am a single human being. It's a matter of words."

Unique, powerful and insightful. The glimpse into the psyche of a child who was forced to grow up and be an adult in a matter of days is truly fascinating.

I didn't like reading this book -- just to be frank about it, but that doesn't mean that this book isn't good. In fact, it's great. It's just heartbreaking. It's morose and grim, and the story is something that no child should ever experience. Many times during the course of reading this book, I would pause and look up, and just ask myself, 'why am I even reading this book in the first place?' It's depressing, and as a reader, I found myself helpless multiple times as regards the protagonist Luca. I wanted to reach out and help him, but I'm just a reader, and I'm forced to sit and read through his tale even though I really wanted to do something to help. In short, reading this book frustrated me to no end.

I have a little brother. He's only seven years old and he's such a delight. When I read this book and I read about Luca, I often thought about my little brother. This is probably the reason why it was such a struggle for me to read this book. To read about Luca's Mom and how she lived selfishly without even thinking about Luca's future was very unsettling.

On the other hand, I commend Luca. It's very undeniable that he's such a bright child for his age. He cried, yes, when he realized that his mother had died, but he didn't panic, or go hysterical. It was really fascinating to read about the level of maturity he exercised at such a young age, and faced with a situation he never even thought he had to deal with. I guess, the thing that this book wishes to say is this: there are some children who are unfortunate enough to be forced to be an adult at such a young age, and this is not even by choice. The message is grim, but it has a touch of truth to it. In the end, the world isn't really such a colorful place because there are actually dark corners where there is sadness and pain.

Despite being depressing, the one thing I appreciate in this book is how it portrayed the innocence of a child and their simplistic logic in dealing with the loss of a loved one. For Luca, it was necessary to wear clean clothes to school because other people might notice that nobody's taking care of him anymore, and they'll be forced to go to his home. They'll end up discovering that his mother is dead and they'll eventually put him in an orphanage. Luca's line of thought is simple, but it's remarkably logical. It was definitely interesting to read about his musings as the book is told from his point of view.

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