Heaven and Earth

Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9781984877314. $28. F
Each August, Teresa Gasparro and her father decamp from their home in Turin to her grandmother’s idyllic estate in Puglia, where Teresa forms an inseparable bond with the boys who work on the neighboring farm under the tutelage of self-styled minister Cesare and his wife, Floriana. A complex brotherhood, Tommaso, Nicola, and Bern live and study side by side, competing for one another’s attention and Cesare’s approval. But with Teresa in the mix, an uncomfortable sexual tension permeates the air. She is mesmerized by Bern, the psalm-quoting young man whose passion for nature, the olive groves, and the vegetables he lovingly cultivates hints at his future as an environmental crusader. Loyalties begin to shift, jealousies emerge, an ominous atmosphere surfaces, and Teresa returns one summer to find that Bern has disappeared under a cloud of scandal, the future she had envisioned with him a mirage.
VERDICT As he did in his Premio Strega–winning debut, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Giordano deftly mines the vast, mysterious territory of childhood, illuminating how our first relationships and loves inform the adults we become. A big, delicious mash-up of a novel blending the vividly drawn friendships of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan stories with the urgency of Richard Powers’s acts of ecoterrorism in The Overstory. [See Prepub Alert, 1/15/20.]

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