Reviews for first true lie

Booklist Reviews 2013 November #1
When his reclusive single-parent mother suddenly dies in her bed, young Luca dreads change, especially the possibility that he will land in an orphanage, so he keeps his mother's death a secret, goes to school, uses her cash card, and cares for his beloved cat, even as the rotting corpse swells up in the one-bedroom apartment on the eighth floor of their city building, and the stench begins to reach beyond the locked bedroom door. 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, as Luca dresses up as "a normal little boy," tries to make do, talks to his mother and himself, listens to the silence, gets through a visit from a friend, and wards off the neighbors. 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? Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 November #1
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. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2014 April #2

According to young Luca, who narrates this U.S. debut from Italian author Mander, humans are separated from other mammals by the ability to lie. Luca's "first true lie" is hiding the death of his melancholy mother in their apartment. She went to sleep one evening in a haze of pills and never woke up, though Luca tried and tried to rouse her, at one point even putting some lipstick on her. Having an absent father--his mother often "tried out" other fathers, then let them go--Luca sees himself as "a coat with just one sleeve." By the end of this short novel, Luca realizes that he is now a coat with no sleeves, just stumps. Still, he survives. VERDICT Exploring men, women, and marriage, loneliness and Luca's friendships with his classmates and his cat, Blue, Mander does an exceptional job of portraying Luca, showing an uncommon depth and knowledge of a young boy's thoughts. This carefully crafted work would be a wonderful choice for a book discussion group. [See Prepub Alert, 7/22/13.]--Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #1

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 a buoyant picture of hope in the face of disaster, and life in the face of death. (Jan.)

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