War and politics rip a family apart in Marco Balzano’s historical novel I’m Staying Here.
When Mussolini tries to Italianize their German-speaking town in Northern Italy, many of Trina’s neighbors hope that Hitler will invade and save them. Trina and her husband Erich, an ardent anti-fascist, are less certain. But when war does come, it causes more damage and heartache than even they could have imagined. As outside events chip away Trina’s family piece by piece, she finds that all she has left to cling to is the future.
Trina narrates her life story as if she’s talking to her daughter, who went missing before the war. Trina’s story is intertwined with the story of Curon, the small farming village where she grew up and dreamed of a bright, happy life. Her aspirations die a slow death, strangled by the rise and fall of dictators and by her own neighbors’ apathy towards politics. Only Erich sees the writing on the wall; only his morals and his horrific experiences as a conscripted soldier allow him to peer into the future at the unfolding tragedies.
As the war rages and then ends, Trina hopes her family can live quietly, even if they cannot reconcile. But there are dangers closer to home. The threat of a dam that will flood Curon has loomed over them for so long that the locals become complacent. They are convinced it will never be built and that they have no responsibility to protect their own homes. Curon’s fate reflects the fate of fascism: good people can stop it, but most good people would rather bury their heads in the sand until it is too late.
I’m Staying Here is a heartbreaking historical novel about the effects of extraordinary events on ordinary people.
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