Interesting and Different

The First True Lie: A Novel - Marina Mander

“If Mama is dead, I can’t tell anyone. If I tell, they’ll take me to the orphanage.”

Imagine you’re ten years old. You have no father, and your mother is alive, but not really there. But, still, she’s all you have. Imagine waking up one morning to find your mother dead, after years of depression and psychological issues. What would be your immediate reaction?

It’s hard to imagine what I would do as this child, but I’m guessing I would call the police first thing. That’s what we’ve been taught to do from a young age. But The First True Lie examines what would happen if this child made a completely different decision, and decided to go on as if nothing ever happened, while his mother rots in her bedroom.

Meet Luca, a young Italian boy living alone with his mother. Luca believes he is a ‘half-orphan’, meaning he has no father (though he has had to deal with a number of ‘dads’ throughout the years). We don’t really know how old he is, but we do know that his mother is still supposed to drop him off at friend’s houses for playdates. But Luca is living a lie. His mother is actually dead in their apartment, and somehow, he continues to go to school every day and live a complete farce.

In my opinion, Luca’s narration of the story was almost believable. We spend the entire story in his head, and for the majority of the time, it’s what I imagine a little kids head to be like. He constantly goes off on tangents when he thinks about how to deal with his mother’s death, and his mind hops from subject to subject with no warning. And yes, I do think that being able to take care of himself with his dead mother in the next room is also realistic, because isn’t that what he’s been doing all along? She was hardly present when she was alive, so it makes sense that he would be able to make some fish sticks for himself. However, the one thing that bothered me was the swearing. I don’t see why or how any young child would think the way Luca does. His mother often chastised him about swearing, and didn’t use the words frequently enough to set a bad example.

I don’t know if this book was supposed to end where it did, or if this was only a preview. If this is, indeed, the original ending, and you are the kind of person who enjoys a happy, concrete ending, then this book isn’t for you. But if you’d like to learn more about how pop culture can really affect children, this is definitely an interesting book. Luca’s reasons for not telling anyone about his mother’s death make sense in his mind, because of what he’s seen on television or because of what he’s heard adults talking about.

Overall, a lovely story. 3.5 stars

Some select quotes that broke my heart:

“There’s only one hope—that she’ll be resurrected, like Jesus. We’ve just begun the second, and who knows if it’s true that Jesus was resurrected.”

“Maybe I wasn’t able to make her stay in my life, to make her live for me at least. Maybe I’m not worth much at all, not for her, not for anyone.”

“Now the storm is here and we’re all about to drown, but Blue and I are still bobbing around.”

“If everything weren’t becoming so complicated, I’d say it’s all the same to me, that in some ways I understand her, that I understand if she was sick of living.”

I received this ARC from NetGalley.