Alice is pushed, by her overbearing father, at a young age to become a world-class skier, but a serious skiing accident, in the Italian alps, leaves her scarred and with a permanent limp. At school, she desperately wants to fit in, but she is taunted by other classmates, engages in self loathing behavior, and, as a result, detests her father for the life she seems faced with.
Mattia is a twin, while he is brilliant, his twin sister Michela is damaged: "his brain seemed to be a perfect machine, in the same mysterious way that his sisters was so defective". Despite this the twins are placed in the same class at school, and Mattia finds himself constantly trying to shelter his sister from the taunting and the laughter of other students. He is forced by his parents to take his sister everywhere. When an incident occurs for which Mattia feels responsible, his life becomes full of guilt, and self loathing behavior as well. In high school he is sent to a new school, and the teachers are not sure how to handle the gifted, but socially withdrawn Mattia.
Alice tries to befriend Mattia, and is attracted to him. When she learns that he is a genius, she asks him if he likes to study. His reply is: "It's the only thing I know how to do." (He wanted to tell her that he liked to study because you can do it alone, because all the things you study are already dead, cold and chewed over). Needless to say, for Alice and Mattia the high school years had further scarred these two individuals who felt rejected by the world. "They had formed a defective and asymmetrical friendship, made up of long absences and much silence, a clean and empty space where both could come back to breathe when the walls of the school became too close for them to ignore the feeling of suffocation."
Taking separate paths after high school, Mattia, a brilliant mathematician, goes off to the university. The two reconnect off and on. Mattia summed it all up by saying he and Alice were "twin primes" alone and lost, "close but not close enough to really touch each other ---lonely individuals forever linked but separated."
MY THOUGHTS -- I loved this book. Not only is a debut novel, written by a physicist, it was first written in Italian, and beautifully translated to English. The story is told in short, alternating chapters, and it drew me in from the very first page. The characters are damaged and sympathetic. It is a beautiful story which shows just how a traumatic childhood can scar us for life. It's a story of missed opportunities, and one that I will not easily forget. The ending surprised me, and I look forward to more books by this talented author. READ THIS BOOK! - ( 5/5 stars )
(Early Review Copy received through the Amazon Vine Program)