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The First True Lie
     

The First True Lie

4.6 5
by Marina Mander
 

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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 favorite toys—words. One February morning his mom doesn't wake up to

Overview

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 favorite toys—words. One February morning his mom doesn't wake up to bring him to school, so Luca—driven by a deep fear of being an orphan—decides to pretend to the world that his mom is still alive. At first it's easy. Luca dresses himself for school, makes sure Blue gets his dinner, and manages to avoid nosy neighbors. He and Blue camp out in the living room and embark on imaginary expeditions to outer space, and Luca dreams about marrying his school crush, Antonella. Soon, however, the laundry starts piling up, the fridge emptying—and the smell of Mama's decaying body begins to permate the apartment.

As Luca grapples with what to do, we ultimately witness something much more poignant than the morbid circumstance—a young boy's journey to 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.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/07/2013
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. The child—who lives alone with his depressed mother and his “amazing” cat, Blue—is hiding a terrible secret: his mother won’t wake up. Luca’s fear of being an orphan is greater than his fear of living with his mother’s dead body, even as it decomposes. This decomposition also kick-starts the meandering plot, and keeps it from straying too far into the weeds of poetic, childlike free association. Luca’s choices can be unbelievable, and, as the book progresses, hard to stomach, but his whimsical take on the world will keep the pages turning. At its worst, the contrast between verbal whimsy and the blunt facts of the dead mother in the other room feels hyperliterary, like a writing prompt taken too far. But at its best, Luca’s original voice will break your heart. Ultimately, Luca’s story offers abuoyantpicture of hope in the face of disaster, and life in the face of death. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Marina Mander's The First True Lie

“If you liked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, read The First True Lie, by Marina ManderMander’s English-language debut has all of Foer’s energy, despite a hard-to-stomach premise… As in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the buoyancy of the child narrator’s voice is ultimately an act of hope — hope in the face of death, darkness, and trauma.” Cosmopolitan 

“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

Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-21
A slim but elegantly carved look into the inner life of an orphaned child. An abrupt and ambiguous ending dents but fails to spoil this experimental novella by Italian writer Mander (A Catalogue of Goodbyes, 2010, etc.). The story is narrated by Luca, a young boy of indeterminate age who is forced to grow up in a matter of weeks. He's smart enough to know that the string of "fathers" that his mama trots through the house are only there for sex, and he's thoughtful about things, if a fair bit foulmouthed in the vein of Holden Caulfield. However, he isn't smart enough to know what to do when his mother dies in the middle of the night at the age of 36. In his traumatized imagination, he can't decide if his mother is an angel or will become a zombie or will rise in three days like Jesus Christ. Instead of letting an adult know, Luca leaves her dead body in bed and starts foraging for himself and his cat, Blue. Mander captures the childlike attitude and voice very well, as Luca struggles to make sense of what has transpired. "You put things in a row and make a story of it," Luca says. "Stories put things in their places. Then you're more relaxed. The stories you invent are your personal lullabies. Even when they're horrible, they don't scare you anymore because you're the one who invented them. That's what this is too. This story is only a secret I told myself to see if I'm able to keep a really secret secret." His motivations and actions are easy to understand from the start; when Luca refers to himself as a "half-orphan," it's clear that he is not only close to his mother, but terrified of being left alone. An interesting protagonist makes this worth a look, but the novel doesn't so much end as stop.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780770436858
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/21/2014
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
819,387
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

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.

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The First True Lie 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the way I was able to see through luca's eyes. His fears, and the way he used his imagination to step away from the reality of his mother's death.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Lucca is determined not to become an orphan, so determined that when his Mama does not wake up, he continues to go about his life, as if she was in a deep sleep. His strange behavior does not go on for just a few days but weeks later, as her body begins to stiffen and strange odors overtake the apartment. Lucca’s mama was a lonely individual which she often talked to Lucca about and it was sad that she had to dump her isolation on such a young child. Lucca knew that his mama was his lifeline and he feared for the worse when his mama did not awaken, for “I go into Mama’s room: she is still turned off.” Lucca fears if he calls the authorities, he will become an orphan and he knows what direction his life will take. If he pretends like everything is okay, he believes that no one will ever know. Some things become automatic in his fight for survival but there are only so many things a child can cope with when faced under so much pressure. So much pressure, yet so much has been lifted off his shoulders as Lucca realizes he now has the freedom of no adult supervision and he is finally living alone. There is also the fear of being detected and of living alone, so along with the good, Lucca has to face the facts that he has a lot of responsibilities to make his cover realistic. Listening to Lucca’s mind as he contemplates life and as he reminiscences about his past, you wonder just how long his clock will keep ticking. The isolation of Lucca was the scary part of this story. Grandma was around for a while and there is a friend of mama’s but no one in the apartment complex was concerned about not seeing mama for an extended amount of time. After Lucca starts to come to school in soiled clothing, I would have hoped that his teacher would have said something. I just thought this was so sad; there were no connections to anyone outside of their apartment that were nearby. Total isolation. Reading the words from Lucca’s mind, it led me to think about how much children really grasp at what they hear. It’s like the saying, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Lucca learned so much by people teaching him or him watching others so when he was left alone he knew how to survive with certain things and with other things, he struggled. I have to believe that his life ended on a happy note as Lucca had so much potential.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry next res. This will be bios.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soooo sad.