Can You Hear Me?
Living in an isolated community that most would not venture into the characters in this novel present their own viewpoints and perspectives about the tragic events that occur in this small town in Ponte, a community in Piedmont. As you visit this place you will see how the author vividly describes the landscape of the roads that die into a path or the furniture factory that no longer exists. It’s a town that seems to be disappearing as the victim count rises and the horrific crimes increase. Each narrator voices his opinion beginning with Elia Furenti, the focal point of this novel as at 16 he takes the spotlight. Often morose and yet not really ever finding any kind of joy living with a father whose behavior is suspect, erratic, at times unsettling and violent, this young man we hope will finally lift himself up and take a look at his life and rise above the deck he has been handed. Elia lives in a world where his mother refuses to face what his father Ettore might be doing as he disappears for hours at a time never recounting or relating his whereabouts. He locks himself in the bathroom, in his beat up old truck or withdraws within himself.
Within each chapter the author sends readers into two or more separate plots as we hear the voice of Elia and then his father as he justifies his actions. Dealing with his father is difficult since losing his job he seems to have lost control of his life, his ability to work at something he took pride in and as we hear his voice we realize that he has a mental illness that has yet to be identified. Living in this small community the people seem to not live for enjoyment or life, they seem to life to just exist. Ettore worked in the cotton factory and the fall of this job or mill took him down. Since he no longer controls his life or job he’s taking control of his wife’s and son’s behaviors and actions even demanding they ask permission to leave the table or do regular chores. Waking his son in the middle of the night and demanding he go into the woods with him leads the reader to understand and Elia too, that something is more than just off and it frightens him. Going out in his beat-up and smelly van he disappears for hours at length and has written letters he claims he mailed to tell everyone he plans revenge on those that have wronged him thinking the mill is still there and he was the only one let go. His wife Marta is sweet yet cannot face the fact that he is ill and makes excuses for him.
Changing from kind, understanding and loving to violent, demeaning, scary and committing crimes that most would never entertain, as a young girl meets him after a long days work and accepts a ride that will destroy her life and change it forever. Taking her home or pretending to what happens within the span of time that they are together should alert young girls and any girls never to accept rides with strangers, as the end result is more than tragic. We get to know the father and yet we see him through his eyes and his wife’s. Elia at times disconnects from himself and his parents finding himself in situations that might take him down too. Anna Trabuio is his friend Stefano’s mother who allows him to come to her home at will and yet the end result will prove just how a young man wants acceptance and love but finds it in the wrong way.
Each character wants to be accepted, loved and needed and each one vies for that type of need but does not get it. Elia’s story is told through what he relates as realties. His father definitely has bipolar disorder but it’s not indentified. In Elia’s own words, “In the August of 1978, the summer I met Anna Trabuio, my father took a girl into the woods. I was sixteen. He had been gone a long time already, but that was it-not even a year later he lost his job and that boy disappeared-that was when everything broke.” Author Elena Varvello takes us inside the minds of many characters as we hear their innermost thoughts, fears, trepidations and hopes. Emotions run high and at times are raw as you hear the voice of the young girl, feel the pain inflicted upon her and her voice hoping that the kidnapper will let her go as she says: CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Stefano battles with his own demons knowing that he’s been separated from this father and now deals with his stepfather and mother disassociating himself from them by escaping into his own world. Elia expresses what he thinks his father is doing as if he’s there with him and the girl.
Who was the last to hear his father’s voice that evening other than the girl? Why did he tell her to stay put in the car and that she could not leave? While Stefano called his father who never shows up and makes excuses telling him to stay put where he is and then Stefano has to decide which direction his life head.
Elia becomes obsessed with Anna and finds himself dreaming about her, wanting to be closer to her and in the end he learns many lessons about relationships and his friend for a while Stefano. Anger reign within each character as they all have to deal with conflicts, difficult situations and the finality of what he learns about his father as the truths, lies and betrayals come to light and he and his mother have to face it. Elia questions his own views, thoughts and at times thinks that his father is dangerous but his mother disagrees. Always defending him no matter what this emotional thriller deals with psychological changes within each character. Ida the neighbor whose daughter is learning challenged is watched and cared for by the missing girl. When will anyone realize she is gone?
What happens when the carabinieri become involved and why? Who found a boy’s notebook wrapped in a cloth? Why hand it to the police? Is this the link the missing boy?
Fast-forward to the missing girl as she allows is to wonder Where is he taking you? Why did his mother regress into her own self and not want to face reality? The mood of this novel is more than sad, somber or tragic it is dark, dismal and each character hopes for something that will never happen. Ida is kind and tries to help Marta but she’s ingrained in herself that Ettore is wonderful, kind and still the man she married she will never see it coming when blindsided.
Things got worse and Elia has to decide where his life was going and whether he needed to face some facts of adulthood as his father loses a battle, his mother uses her memories to keep her alive and still dreaming of the past. The ending will surprise you as Elia learns some coming of age lessons and he will decide on his own direction.
The ending will let you know that each character whether major or minor has one thing or more in common. Each one wants to be loved, accepted and needed. Each one wants to be seen and noticed and each one wants someone hear them and Elia would like to say: DAD: CAN YOU HEAR ME? I’m YOUR SON!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine