All the Life That Remains
Original title: Tutta la vita che resta
A wonderful debut that reminds one of Elena Ferrante and Donna Tartt.
A family that tries to mend a deep tear, that over the years experiences the delicate balance of affections.
A novel about forgetfulness, about the pain that almost suffocates the possibility of existing. A story about being parents and being children; about care and love that go beyond loss.
Rome, mid 50′. The Balestrieri family has owned a grocery store near Via Merulana for generations. Their existence flows quietly until their second daughter, Marisa, cracks the perfect picture. She remains pregnant with her boyfriend, who suddenly and unexpectedly leaves her. Her parents then decide to give her to their young apprentice, Stelvio, and what was meant to be just a loveless arranged marriage, will instead become a relationship full of love and complicity.
In the eighties, Stelvio and Marisa Ansaldo are truly satisfied: their business is going well, they love each other deeply, their eldest son is a concert pianist who travels the world, and their daughter, Betta, is a lively and dynamic sixteen.
The family spends their summer holidays in Torre Domizia with their grandmother and granddaughter Miriam, daughter of Emma, and sister of Marisa.
Betta and Miriam are the same age but that’s about all they have in common, just like their mothers they couldn’t be more different. But nonetheless, they spend their first day of vacation together, enjoying their company and catching up. At night the two girls decide to sneak away from home to reach a bonfire by sea.
Unfortunately, they never get there: they are assaulted and raped by a group of boys. Betta dies there, in the sand, from an asthma attack, crushed by the weight of her aggressors. Miriam survives but, deeply affected by the trauma, reveals nothing of what happened.
Betta’s body is found the next morning and right there, her family loses its center. The loss drives the Ansaldo couple further and further away, leaving behind only the memory of the couple they once were.
In the background, the investigation of Betta’s murder stagnates, slowed down by prejudices and omissions.
Miriam, abandoned to herself, is overwhelmed by the consequences of her secret. Only meeting with Leo, a young man from Rome, will change the fate of her story.
Despite mourning, once again, in the history of this family, love and sincere relationships help bring the truth to light and strengthen the deepest bonds.
The characters, finally exposing their fragility, are able to question themselves on the value of hope and on the meaning of faith in front of a pain that seemed to have eradicated all certainty.
- 5-way auction in Italy won by Rizzoli, in a two-book deal
- Some words from the author’s letter:
I always write following an instinct, trying to put order in the chaos of stories, voices, and faces that inhabit my head. I collect fragments that become sharper and sharper as I bind them together while my fingers run on the keyboard. I have always imagined myself as a tool to narrate something that has already existed, somewhere, in another time, and is just waiting to be told.
This is a story that resembles the box of photographs in which, in the end, Marisa Ansaldo finds the meaning of her existence. Looking through its pages, I see traces of things that have been part of my life or that I have been missing.
It’s a novel about memory, love, and hope that, despite the pain, gives meaning to who we are. I would like those who read it to find, between the pages, emotions and feelings that belong to them, that perhaps they had forgotten, or new ones to discover as it happened to me with the books I most loved. But this is also a novel about the complexity of evil, which reminds us of how vulnerable we are.
- What the Italian publisher says:
No matter how much you’ve suffered, or how hard your life’s been: if you don’t accept the truth, if you don’t look it in the eyes and find the courage to say it out loud, you can’t go on. This is what happens to the characters in Roberta Recchia’s novel: they struggle through the pages until they find that courage. And the readers can’t help but follow them eagerly, captivated by Recchia’s brilliant writing and by the way she masters a plot that covers a 30-year span and several main characters – all wonderfully portrayed.
This is the kind of book every reader – and every publisher – is always looking for: the one you can’t put down and won’t stop talking about after you’ve finished it. —Arianna Curci, Editor at Rizzoli
- What the French publisher says:
All your characters moved me deeply and lastingly, I can’t stop thinking about them. Is it because I found in each a piece of my own life – which will be the case for all your readers – or because you have the talent of very great writers to bring your main characters to life through your secondary characters? […] You have the rare gift of taking your reader by the hand, picking them up, and prancing them from one genre to another with no possibility of stopping the joy of this ride until you have turned the last page. Hats off. –Henri Bovet, Publisher Slatkine & Cie
- What the Dutch publisher says:
[We] both completely fell in love with the story. It’s a love story, a crime novel, a coming of age, a family saga — full of intrigue, family secrets, complicated relationships and suspense. It’s impossible to put it down until you have read the very last page. TUTTA LA VITA CHE RESTA is poignant and thrilling, and Roberta Rosella Recchia manages to keep all those different elements of this sweeping saga together thanks to her very effective narrative rhythm, her strong message but above all her extremely skilled writing. Her writing style truly is the other magic trick of this novel: it’s sharp, effective and straightforward, and hits you right in the feels. The dialogue is strong and realistic, the description of the tragedy takes your breath away and clever little details strengthen the story even more (the sand between Miriam’s teeth for example, when she wakes up after the horrible night). Roberta Rosella Recchia keeps up an impressive pace, without ever losing the reader as she goes.—Lotte Dijkstra, Editor at Xander