Italian Shoes

 “My island was so marvelously formed that it was always possible to find a spot sheltered from the wind. I found such a place, sat down and wondered why I had chosen to become the person I was” (216).

I find myself, in the week before plunging back into school, supremely restless. I flit from one thing to another; throwing my body from one couch onto a bed onto another sofa. All this in an effort to waste time while I wait to get on with the work of my life. Yet, in all this moving to and fro with mind and body, it is this story that stays with me, or rather, the imagery does. I read it some time ago during the summer. A suggestion from my “dear neighbor.” I was intrigued because of the author’s writings, who we all know due to the PBS series Wallander, but more so because a common bond between the neighbor and myself is our love of mysteries. Here is a non-mystery by a well-known mystery writer; here is a title with a seemingly total disconnect to the story in both setting and plot.

Regardless of all this prattle, Italian Shoes is a fierce and also a quiet story, simultaneously. I will not summarize it here for written summaries, far better than mine, abound. Although a word of advice: it is best to read this with no prior knowledge. This preserves the power of the tale, methinks.

I will admit to this: the setting is bleak; the hearts are broken; the tale is dense. The imagery includes ice and cold that take away the breath; forest pools with surface waters like black, liquid oil; neglected rooms and meaningless objects. The feelings are utter loneliness, frozen anger; aching hearts patched and stitched, to tear again; intimate gestures or words that fall away; wonder and awe of the human condition.


Mankell, Henning, and Laura Thompson, trans. Italian Shoes. New York:  Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010. Print.

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