Find Me by André Aciman – A Book Review
“As I expected, he had not figured that so many years could go by and still leave me attached to someone who had become an invisible presence.”
Find Me: A Novel by André Aciman. Copyright © 2019
It’s always hard to write a sequel.
It’s even harder when the first book was translated into a very successful film that created a dedicated fan-following around the world.
In “Call me by your name” André Aciman captured the hearts of millions of readers with a beautiful coming-of-age love affair between Elio and Oliver the star-crossed lovers that made us all fantasize about a summer romance in 1983’s Italy separated from the modern world and complexly succumbed by passion, romance and a whole lot of heartache.
The sequel was highly anticipated and by book readers and moviegoers alike which must’ve added a lot of pressure on Aciman to deliver.
The result, however, is not what I had in mind.
“Find Me” was released in October 2019 and was waiting for me on my Kindle as I pre-ordered it months before. I was excited to dive back into the world of Elio and Oliver and eager to learn about their relationship 20 years later.
Aicman constructed the book in a way where there are no defined chapters, only movements, like parts of a musical piece (Tempo, Cadenza, Capriccio, Da Capo) and each movement is a different story, in a different time by a different person but they all create one big concerto if you will that tells a whole story.
The lack of chapters is probably the main reason why I read the book from start to finish in one sit-in, as one page rolled into the next, it is difficult to find a place to stop and take a break, or perhaps this was intentional, to force the reader to keep reading and fall deeper and deeper into the plot so it will be easily connected in the end.
The book started off with a train ride to Rome and a chance meeting between strangers that had changed their lives forever. For many pages I tried to figure out if I’m reading Elio’s or Oliver’s point of view just to eventually discover that the story belonged to Elio’s father, Samuel, post-divorce and probably having a late mid-life crisis while he was swept away by a mysterious and beautiful young woman on his way to meet Elio, ten years after that fateful summer.
I’ll have to admit it was a bit odd reading Samuel’s thoughts and follow him along as he falls completely head-over-heels over Miranda (the young woman) in the beautiful and historical streets of Rome but I went along with it as Aicman is such a grandiose story-teller, it is hard not to imagine the picture he is painting with his words and apricate it for the art that it is, even if at times, it is a bit misunderstood.
The second section of the book also kept me guessing for a while on whose point of view I was reading, as it was completely shrouded by mystery and it seemd at one point that our narrator was more than just one person. I’ll have to admit I found the shtick about tiring at that point.
Eventually, Elio, now a famous pianist, introduced himself to readers and Michael, an older man who slowly became a significant presence in his love-life.
Despite being set in one of the most romantic cities in the world (Paris) Elio & Michael’s story wasn’t appealing at all.
Aicman got lost in describing the most mundane of details and buried the romance in weird technical sexual encounters that were awkward to read.
It felt as though Elio remained a lost little boy even fifteen years later, incapable of creating meaningful human connections, despite the attempt of presenting Michael as something different, it was difficult to root for that relationship when the readers got distracted by a sub-plot of a World-War II secret love affair that may or may not had happened between Michael’s father and a Jewish musician.
That part of the novel was frustrating to read and I found myself skipping through paragraphs and contemplating whether Aicman lost his way in his own story.
Fast forward another five years and we have reached Oliver, now a professor in New England, living a somewhat tortured life, married with children, as he finds himself swept in attraction to a man and a woman while flirting with them at a party hosted by his wife.
If the previous section of the book made me doubt Aicman’s ability to re-create heavily induced sexual tension moments I will have to take that back, as page after page filled with bottled up passion has made me remember why I fell in love with Oliver in the first place.
It is beyond me how can one part of the book be so medically sterile while the other steaming with lust, desire, and shame.
Narrated by Elio and not long after the events of Capriccio, the readers can finally receive the story they came for. It is too short, clumsy, a little bit romantic, a little bit awkward and a little bit disappointing.
Some will most likely receive what they’ve hoped for, that hopeful conclusion to an epic love story, but for me, it was too little, too late.
In each section of the book, you have to find that love story, find that person who’s life has changed forever and will never be the same, but that love story does not belong to Elio & Oliver and it is not at all what I’ve expected when I started the book.
It is always hard to write a sequel.
I’ll let you be the judge if this one has satisfied your desires.