Like Family by Paolo Giordano
2015 Pamela Dorman Books (Viking)
Translated by Anne Milano Appel
Finished on January 2, 2016
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
From the author of the international bestseller The Solitude of Prime Numbers, an exquisite portrait of marriage, adulthood, and the meaning of family.
Paolo Giordano’s prizewinning debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, catapulted the young Italian author into the literary spotlight. His new novel features his trademark character-driven narrative and intimate domestic setting that first made him an international sensation.
When a young married couple hires a middle-aged widow during the wife’s, Nora’s, difficult pregnancy, they don’t realize the dominant force she will become in their household. First as their maid and nanny, then their confidante, Signora A. quickly becomes the glue that holds their small family together. For both husband and wife, her benign influence allows them to negotiate the complexities of married life; for their young son, she becomes the shield who protects him from his parents’ expectations and disappointments.
But the family’s delicate fabric comes undone when Signora A. is diagnosed with cancer. Moving seamlessly between the past and present, highlighting the joys of youth and the fleeting nature of time, Giordano has created an exquisite portrait of adulthood and marriage. Elegiac, heartrending, and deeply personal, this is a jewel of a novel—short, intense, and unforgettable.
I received this lovely book for my birthday from my dear friend, Bellezza. It’s a small book, maybe 5x7, with just 146 pages in all. I fell in love with the stunning cover art as soon as I unwrapped my gift. It’s the sort of book one would leave out on a table, just for that beautiful image. And, there’s something about the compact size of small hardcovers, such as this one and a few others that are on my “keeper” shelves. They’re little works of art, each and every one of them.
They are so aesthetically appealing and so much easier to hold than traditional hardcovers. (Note: I find it interesting that all of these, with the exception of Like Family, are nonfiction/memoirs.) But I digress.
I read this slim novel in just a few short hours. I liked Giordano’s spare prose, but I didn't really feel the intended emotional impact of the characters' loss. Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), which is also a short novel about aging and loss, had a much more profound impact on me, as did Emily, Alone (Stewart O’Nan).
There really was a Mrs. A. in my life. She stayed in my house, shared life with my family for a few years, then she had to leave us. This book was inspired by her story. It was meant as a homage to her, a way to keep her with me a little longer. I’ve changed most of the names and I’ve changed several details, but not what I felt was the nature of Mrs. A. And, certainly, not what was my feeling toward her. ~ Paolo Giordano
Like Family is a quiet narrative, easily read in a single day. Many readers have loved this novel, which in many ways reads like a memoir. Have you read it or Giordano’s previous work, The Solitude of Prime Numbers?