Gabriele, the 24-year-old narrator of Nicola DeRobertis-Theye’s absorbing debut, looks outward, rather than inward ... That all of this dense, difficult history unfolds naturally in the scope of Gabriele’s present-day story — she does, of course, eventually contact her aunts and cousins, and allow herself to be brought into their fold — speaks yards to DeRobertis-Theye’s deft, masterly storytelling ... deeply gratifying ... This complex, substantive debut offers a singular and transfixing take on the nature of identity — both national and personal — and the dangers of secrecy, both national and personal. And, of course, what it means to come of age in a broken world, a world that has been broken for generations.
... a coolly observed literary deconstruction ... this wandering bildungsroman unfolds as self-realization: gradually, thoughtfully, around the metaphor of city as self. This meditation on history, identity and family questions how and why we form the stories we tell about ourselves ... Suited to patient readers seeking something measured and esoteric, who, like Gabriele, prefer questions to answers.
This is a sprawling, languid book, constructed from rambling, unhurried paragraphs that take many detours into the nooks and crannies of Rome. Readers who are interested in the Italian experience will find themselves immersed in it, even when the protagonist lacks focus. Gabriele shines most brightly when she is on the hunt for a new clue. Recommended for thoughtful readers who appreciate both the interior and exterior journey.
DeRobertis-Theye unfolds Gabriele’s quest like a mystery, revealing clues both to Vietri’s life and Gabriele’s: her fear of inheriting schizophrenia, her overwhelming feelings of grief, her conflicted longing for family, and her obsession with Vietri ... A captivating tale.
A young woman evades her uncertain future by fixating on an elderly man in DeRobertis-Theye’s introspective if meandering debut ... Gabriele’s gradual drift builds to a tentative conclusion, though the author’s tendency to rush past major details blunts the impact. While gracefully written, this circuitous bildungsroman only skims the surface.