THE HOMECOMING PARTY by Carmine Abate

Book Quote:

“In the weeks that followed, I became accustomed to my father’s presence, and did my best to persuade myself that he was home for good. It was the same every time he came home.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (JUL 27, 2010)

The poverty of Southern Italy and the negative results of globalization are at the roots of the novella The Homecoming Party from Italian author Carmine Abate. Told through the eyes of Marco Tullio, the story covers certain pivotal moments in the lives of Marco’s family.

The book begins in Southern Italy at a Christmas bonfire while Marco sits with his father on the steps of a church. These are good times for 12-year-old Marco as he basks in the all-too rare company of his father, but as the evening wears on, Marco’s father tells stories about working in France, and Marco’s mind wanders off to thoughts of his sister Elisa who attends the University of Cosenza and returns home for the weekends.

This is a story of a family split by the need for work and education. Marco’s father works wherever there’s a job offered–and that boils down to overseas employment in less-than-safe-conditions. Marco’s half-sister, Elisa seeks a better life through education, and so that leaves the family split in half with Marco at home with his mother and grandmother. But the divisions between the family go even deeper–Elisa was born to Marco’s father’s first wife–an Italian girl he met in France. This was during the period when Marco’s father was trying to make a life in France, but now his permanent home is in Italy with forays for employment elsewhere.

While The Homecoming Party is a tale of the Tullio family in crisis, the deeper message is that fractured families are weakened by the absence of critical family members. This is frequently seen in books through the perspective of the single mother whose resources are stretched too thin. The Homecoming Party, instead, shows a vulnerable family that should be intact but is instead fractured by long-distance employment.

Details of Marco’s father’s work abroad are thin, and that’s a disappointment–although this is not a book about what the man does when he is abroad, but what happens to his family when he is gone. Marco is forced to assume the role of male protector, and the step-family fissure deepens with the father absent.

The Homecoming Party is a slim tale of a family in trouble. The social implications for Italy, in general, are plain. Here’s Marco’s father talking about why he left:

“You leave,” he answered his own question. “Of course, you leave, the way I left and so many young men from this town left, because they had no way out. Farming, with the little patches of land that we have, was barely enough to keep starvation from our door. We had houses as small as zimbe, old and bare, without modern comforts. It didn’t take a lot of intelligence to understand that you, our children would be condemned to lead the same goatish lives as us. While the world outside got better. While the rest of Italy progressed?”

And while Marco’s father leaves to help establish a better future for his children, his family begins to crumble.

In North America, we tend to be plagued with the question of commuting. Just how long a commute still allows for a reasonable level of existence? An hour a day? Two hours a day? Commuter communities are unpleasant places, notoriously bleak and they seem practically deserted during the week days. Yet to contemplate spending one’s life as an exile in order to send home enough money for your family to live on is beyond our comprehension. The world is changing, and some of that is positive, but some of it quite horrible. I find the phenomenon of global migrant workers incredibly depressing. I remember a woman from Latin America who was working as a nanny for one of my co-workers. The nanny carried photos of her own children in a locket. Who was raising her children while she earned money to send home? These people want just what everyone else wants, but with desperation at their heels, none of the choices are good. And this is what The Homecoming Party illustrates. (Translated by Antony Shaggar.)

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 3 vreaders
PUBLISHER: Europa Editions (July 27, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? Not Yet
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Carmine Abate (in Italian)
EXTRAS: Europa Editions page
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Bibliography:

  • Il Ballo Tondo (1991)
  • La Moto di Skanderberg (1999)
  • Tra Due Mari (2002) / Between Two Seas (2007 in English)
  • La Ronde de Costantino (2002)
  • La Festa Del Ritorno (2004) / The Homecoming ( 2010 in English)
  • Il Mosaico Del Temp Grande (2006)
  • Gil Anni Veloci (2008)
  • Vivere Per Addizione (2010)

July 27, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Family Matters, italy, Translated, World Lit

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