Where My Body Ends and the World Be­gins

Tony Romano Al­lium Press of Chicago (DE­CEM­BER) Soft­cover $17.99 (262pp) 978-0-9967558-7-0

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - KRIS­TEN RABE

Romano is a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller, un­fold­ing a cap­ti­vat­ing and imag­i­na­tive tale.

This en­gross­ing, sur­pris­ing, and psy­cho­log­i­cally as­tute novel takes a real-life event—the dev­as­tat­ing 1958 fire at the Our Lady of the An­gels school that killed ninety-two chil­dren and sev­eral nuns—and con­sid­ers its im­pact on the sur­vivors and the sur­round­ing Ital­ian-amer­i­can com­mu­nity on the west side of Chicago.

Nearly a decade af­ter the fire, twenty-yearold An­thony Lazzeri is strug­gling with the con­se­quences of the tragedy he sur­vived. He is of­ten at odds with his fam­ily, his some­time-girl­friend

Maryann, and his own body. He strives to imag­ine a fu­ture for him­self.

From its wrench­ing open­ing, in which An­thony shat­ters his leg in an ac­ci­dent, to its tu­mul­tuous con­clu­sion, where he tum­bles into a series of chal­leng­ing re­al­iza­tions, much of the story is cen­tered on An­thony’s at­tempt to come to terms with his losses. Adding to the ten­sion is the fact that his neigh­bor, a re­tired po­lice de­tec­tive, is con­vinced that An­thony was in­volved in set­ting the fire.

Romano is a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller, un­fold­ing a cap­ti­vat­ing and imag­i­na­tive tale as An­thony grad­u­ally, in twists and turns, con­fronts the trou­bled re­la­tion­ships, buried mem­o­ries, guilt, and self-de­cep­tions that are weigh­ing him down. While most of the novel is told from An­thony’s point of view, Romano clev­erly in­ter­sperses in­sights from Maryann that im­ply that An­thony’s nar­ra­tion and mem­o­ries may not be en­tirely re­li­able.

The story ex­pertly cap­tures the tex­ture and ca­dence of its Ital­ian com­mu­nity: the clipped speech of city work­ers in the Streets and San­i­ta­tion depart­ment where An­thony works, the stoic ca­ma­raderie at the Billy Goat and other smoky tav­erns where he searches for his fa­ther, and the com­forts of his Nonna’s warm bread and home­made ravi­oli. Char­ac­ters are well drawn, dis­tinct, and sym­pa­thetic. Where My Body Ends and the World Be­gins is a grip­ping com­ing-of-age novel. It tells the unique story of one young man’s ten­ta­tive, halt­ing at­tempts to un­der­stand loss, while also mak­ing a broader state­ment about the strength of com­mu­nity and fam­ily, and about the wounds we en­dure, es­pe­cially those that may never com­pletely heal.

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