Advance Reader Copy, 329 pages
February 4th 2014
Simon & Schuster
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I grew up in a town that was and still is to some extent a town predominantly composed of Italians, so I am well aware of the importance of soccer in particular the World Cup. I remember when Italy won the World Cup in 2006 there were celebrations throughout the streets and yes it was really loud. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of soccer though I don’t mind watching it since most of my family loves to play and watch soccer.
Fortunately Brigid Pasulka’s The Sun and Other Stars is a story that can get even those who aren’t fans of soccer invested in a story where soccer plays a major role. Though the story of 22 year old Etto who has recently lost both his twin brother and his mother starts off slow partly because of all the Italian terms used, it does pick up to be a very good. I found that due to the age of the protagonist, this book had a feel that was somewhere between YA and Adult fiction though I wouldn’t call in “New Adult”. This is an “escape” novel at its best; filled with idyllic and at times not so perfect descriptions of a small costal Italian town the reader suddenly feels as if they’ve transported right into the very pages they’re reading there’s even a bit of romance to sweeten the deal. I for one felt more and more like I was both an outsider as well as a member of the community in the town of San Benedetto.
The Sun and Other Stars in addition to being a story about how the love of something can bring together an entire community is a story about family, love, loss, and friendship. It is a wonderful depiction of a father-son relationship which can be just as complicated as mother-daughter relationships and it is the story of a young man coming to terms with the loss in his life and moving on to appreciate what he has. Though the main character is a bit of a jerk throughout the book as well as a pushover at the start of the book, I loved seeing him grow over the course of the novel. I also loved how the story was told from a first narrator point of view as there are times where Etto breaks the fourth wall and it really does feel as if he’s talking to you directly.
Overall Pasulka has written a very beautiful and intimate novel that has the potential to make soccer appealing to those who aren’t fans of the sport before reading the book. I loved the ending of the The Sun and Other Stars because it doesn’t really feel like the end, instead it acknowledges the fact that the stories of these characters will go on just like life does.
If you like this book, you’ll love: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.