An utterly compelling, heartbreaking novel that introduces a revelatory young voice to the U.S. market.
Meet Luca, a curious young boy living with his mother, a taciturn woman who "every now and then tries out a new father." Luca keeps to himself, his cat, Blue, and his words--his favorite toys. One February morning his mom doesn't wake up to bring him to school, so Luca--with a father who's long gone and driven by a deep fear of being an orphan ("part of you is missing and people only see the part that isn't there")--decides to pretend to the world that his mom is still alive. Luca has a worldly comprehension of humanity, and grapples with his gruesome situation as the stench of the rotting body begins to permeate his home.
But this remarkable narrative is not insufferably morbid. Luca also pretends that Blue is his personal assistant and that they're on an expedition in outer space together; he goes for observant trips to the store, where he uses the contents of a basket to astutely assess the person who's filled it; he fantasizes about marrying his school crush, Antonella (whose freckles on her nose are described as being a pinch of cinnamon on whipped cream.)
Ultimately, we are witness to something much more poignant that needs no translation: the journey of a young boy deciding--in a more devastating manner than most--to identify himself independently, reaching the point at which he can say: "I am no longer an orphan. I am a single human being. It's a matter of words."
Marina Mander is the author of Manuale di Ipocondria Fantastica (A Fantastical Manual of Hypochondria, 2000), Catalogo degli Addii (A Catalogue of Goodbyes, 2010) and Nessundorma, 2013. This is her first U.S. publication. She lives in Milan and works in publishing.
Praise for Marina Mander's The First True Lie
"From page one I was with Luca, the adorable and witty young narrator of this brilliant and emotionally upsetting story. I lived in his words and in his head, and stayed there for a long time after I had finished the book."—Herman Koch, author of the international bestseller The Dinner
"Mander’s English-language debut is narrated by the ebullient Luca, whose voice is every bit as engaging as the best child narrators out there: imagine a blend of Oskar (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Blue (Special Topics in Calamity Physics), and Christopher Boone (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). This slim novel smartly focuses on the cranks and gears of Luca’s imagination….[A]t its best, Luca’s original voice will break your heart. Ultimately, Luca’s story offers a buoyant picture of hope in the face of disaster, and life in the face of death."—Publishers Weekly
"Translated from the Italian in clear, lyrical prose, always true to the child’s viewpoint, the blend of horror and innocence captures a universal nightmare….The terse survival drama of the child marooned alone, not in the wilderness but in the crowded city, will stir readers: Could it be happening on my street? How will it end?”—Booklist
"[An] elegantly carved look into the inner life of an orphaned child."—Kirkus Reviews "Cruel, heart-wrenching, and surprising...As all great books do, this opens a window into a world. It will not be easy for you to close that window, nor to forget that world."—La Republica
"A beautiful novel that tells a terrible story with brio and depth."—Tiziano Scarpa