Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: "The Other Language" by Francesca Marciano

Change can be difficult to deal with, and how we handle it defines us as a person. Whether it's a change in a relationship, career, location, age, even the death of a loved one, change is often unexpected and it can produce some tumultuous results.

The characters in Francesca Marciano's story collection, The Other Language, are all facing change of one sort or another. Marciano's stories take place in foreign countries—Italy, Greece, Tanzania, Kenya, India—but although the settings may be different from what we're used to, the themes are universal and many of the characters' struggles will seem familiar.

In "Roman Romance," an Italian woman deals with the return of an old boyfriend, who is now an iconic rock star—and must continue to confront people's suspicions that one of his most famous songs is about her. "Chanel" follows a filmmaker and her best friend/roommate as they struggle with the end of their relationship, which culminates with her buying a Chanel dress for a film awards show, although she cannot afford it. In "The Presence of Men," a woman's difficulties becoming acclimated in the small Italian village she has moved to becomes more complicated with the arrival of her film agent brother and one of his most famous clients. The long-married characters in "An Indian Soiree" find their relationship tested by dreams of past loves and the promise of new ones. And in the moving title story, three children on the cusp of adolescence spend two summers on a Greek island following the death of their mother, which changes their relationship with their father, even as they are trying to figure out who they are as individuals.

I thought this was a really terrific collection. I enjoyed all nine stories tremendously, and thought Marciano created such vivid, complex, and emotionally rich characters. And honestly, there's something about the locations of these stories, and the fact that the majority of the characters were foreign, that made them just a little more exotic and intriguing, even as they were dealing with familiar feelings and crises.

These stories are at times funny, at times poignant, and all tremendously interesting. I've never read anything by Marciano before but I'm definitely interested now, as this collection really showed off her talents. Definitely pick this one up—and I would be surprised if you don't want to travel after you read these stories, as I'm totally jonesing to go to Italy now...

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