Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Review: THE CROSSROADS, by Niccolò Ammaniti
Also published in English as As God Commands and winner of the 2007 Strega Prize, Niccolò Ammaniti's The Crossroads is a heartbreaking and breathtakingly suspenseful coming of age story set far from tourist Italy in a working-class community impacted by drugs, immigration and economic collapse.
Cristiano Zena is thirteen and living with his father Rino in a dilapidated house cluttered with garbage and resentment. Cristiano's mother is gone and the boy idolizes his narcissistic father, on whom he depends and feels he must protect. At the outset Rino orders his son to kill a dog that's making too much noise and even this episode is laced with suspense. Will Cristiano do it?
Of course he does, and when Rino and his buddies Danilo and Corrado aka Quattro Formaggi plan a get-rich-quick robbery scheme, Cristiano doesn't question it. Meanwhile he's navigating his hardscrabble adolescence in the only ways he knows how- through violence and confusion. He has a run-in with a local bully that ends badly, and gets teased by two girls in his class, Fabiana and Esmeralda. Then the night of the robbery comes, and things take place that no one could have planned.
This sequence, "The Night," is a novel in and of itself, a heart-pounding, cinematic sequence that interleaves the perspectives of Rino, Danilo, Quattro Formaggi, Cristiano and Fabiana. By the end of "The Night" all of them will have passed a point of no return. The book is a little slow to start but once you get here you won't be able to stop until the heartbreaking end.
I really loved this book but it was a difficult read at times. Rino is a bitter man whose rancor is passed on to his son even as he says he wants something better for the boy. Cristiano can't see the difference between his father and himself, while Rino's friends drown in their delusions. But it's Fabiana who pays the ultimate price.
Like I said, it's a tough read but I can't recommend it enough if you think you're up to the task. I'm glad I gave it a shot. Uncompromising and impossible to forget, The Crossroads will leave an indelible mark on your heart.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.