Author: Brigid Pasulka
Provided Synopsis: After losing his brother and mother within a year, twenty-two-year-old Etto finds himself adrift in his hometown, where every man’s life revolves around soccer, except for his. Frustrated and lonely, Etto is faced with the seemingly impossible prospect of cobbling together the remaining pieces of his life, including his mostly nonexistent relationship with his father, the town butcher.
Things begin to change for Etto when Yuri Fil, a scandal-ridden Ukrainian soccer star and his tough-love sister, Zhuki, arrive in town, and sweep him into their universe of soccer, celebrity, laughter, and fierce loyalty. Under their influence, Etto begins to reconstruct his relationship with his father and learns a few life lessons: that perhaps the game of soccer isn’t just a waste of time—and that San Benedetto, his father, love, and life itself might have more to offer him than he ever believed possible.
Review: This was the perfect book for me. Not in the sense that it was a remarkable piece of literary fiction, but because it heavily incorporated something I love into the storyline: soccer. In the midst of a reading slump that had left me disenchanted with the stories I was picking, this book was everything I needed.
Along the Italian Riviera is a small town called San Benedetto, where a young man named Etto lives with his father and amongst the same people he has known all of his life. Recent tragedies have left Etto with a cynical view of the world and with a rift between himself and his father. The town and its inhabitants are obsessed with the sport of soccer, though Etto is not — which leaves him feeling like an outsider. It takes the arrival of a world-famous soccer star and his sister for Etto to realize that being a part of a community is not the horror he had been thinking of it as. The message to take away from this book is to learn to live again, and to appreciate what you have always had around you when you open your eyes to embrace something new.
As a fanatic watcher of international soccer (no MLS for me!), I was sucked into this book right away. The references to players or events past and current (in the sense the book is set in 2005) were humorous, often leaving me with the feeling that I was “in the know” and a part of this community in the sense that I could relate to their love of the sport. Do I think readers who are not fans of soccer will appreciate this as much as I did? I am not sure — my advice would be to go into this story with an open-mind, take in the culture, and realize that the point of the book is not the sport but the lessons and companionship it weaves between the characters.
With the exclusion of some aspects of the story that I believe did nothing for the journey as a whole, I can conclude that I really enjoyed this book.