This book explores the friendship between two young Italian children, each of whom feels is a misfit in society. Both have a distinctive “outsider’s” way of looking at the world and either might be identified as being on the spectrum of autism spectrum disorder.
Mattia is a math wiz, unable to connect with family or peers, living with deep psychological damage and guilt following a childhood tragedy.
Alice, teased and ostracized by peers and living with a physical disability, takes revenge on herself through anorexia. Yet somehow, Mattia and Alice find some comfort from each other that they can find no where else.The book takes place between the years 1983 – 2007, offering a series of snapshots or glimpses every few years into the lives of these two friends. From childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood we watch the ways Alice and Mattia cope with what others perceive as limitations.
Despite the fact that this is an international bestseller, I felt a distance from the characters that kept me from being fully emotionally involved with either. Perhaps that was intentional, a way for the author to more fully illustrate the isolation of being different. It’s quite a sad book and there are no happy endings. But it does provide insight into a world I knew little about. One that I feel I understand better now, having read this book.
Here’s a link to the author’s Wikipedia entry.