I have a friend, an ex-coworker, with whom I occasionally email back and forth about what we’re reading. In an email to her yesterday, I stated that she had to go out and get The Other Language by Francesca Marciano immediately, and start reading it. In the same email I also wrote that she must immediately download Bad News off of the classic Kanye West album 808 and Heartbreak and listen to it on repeat. Before hitting send, it dawned on me how bossy I sounded so I erased the word ‘immediately’. But then I undid the change and sent it as-is because a life well-lived requires beautiful things, and telling my book buddy that she should immediately get her hands on Marciano’s beautiful book and Kanye’s splendid use of a flight of violins only makes me a better, if bossy, friend.
Marciano will take you places. If they are places you know, as I know Rome or Dar es Salaam, you will smile with recognition at secrets of these places that Marciano sprinkles through her prose. Little things that are deeper than description and will feel familiar; like the the pots of basil on the windowsill to keep the mosquitoes away that Michiko Kakutani noted in the New York Times review of the book. If Marciano is taking you places you don’t know, as I don’t know Greece or India, she will make you salivate for the experience, make your palms itch for the feel of your passport. If you’re a traveler this book will make you want to go.
Marciano will make you lonely. So much of this book is about characters who are somehow isolated. By geography, by language, by culture. The book is full of people who are alone in beautiful places and if that’s a feeling you know – if you’ve ever packed your bags to move overseas only to find yourself wandering foreign cobble-stoned alleys with tears in your eyes, aching for a friend – you will find her characters as familiar as a pot of basil on the windowsill to keep the mosquitoes away.
Marciano will make you review your life choices. Of the nine stories, several are about disappointment; about making the wrong choice or about not being brave enough to pursue something difficult. About settling. The second story “Chanel,” broke my heart and is replaying in my head three days after I first read it. And it’s making me think about unworn dresses that I have in my closet, that have been waiting for the right occasion for years, and how the right occasion may never happen.
You know what life choice you will definitely regret? Not reading this book. Go out and get The Other Language by Francesca Marciano immediately, and start reading it.