Shine like life

“The happy ending must be conquered, not invented.”

Maria Grazia Calandrone entrusts us with a very private and intimate story; with bitter notes from the very first pages. It is the story of a mother-daughter relationship consisting of a very deep love during the golden years of childhood and enormous chaos in the years to come.

It is not a simple story told by a daughter, but a troubled relationship with an adoptive mother who at one point refuses to be a mother: hence the drama of a life. “Mamma”, or sometimes declined in “mother”, is the most frequent word in the novel: it is a presence read on every page; a sweet note that pushes us into the deepest emotional spheres; a scream that leads us to stifle a tear, which – be careful, we warn you – risks exploding definitively on the last page.

The lexicon remains focused on the word “mother” continually called or just told; it is a continuous recalling in the conscience of all readers a term that invariably arouses deep emotions in us. We could not help but notice that the theme of the figure of the mother or motherhood is central to this year’s Italian literature; we have already talked about how one can be a mother and who can also be a mother in Borgo sud, or how a mother can feel rejected by a daughter in Sembrava bellezza. And now, in Shine like life we are witnessing an additional problem: what happens if a mother does not feel like one? If she refuses her daughter.

So far, we could define the book as a poignant story that fascinates us even more because we know, from the very beginning, that these are real events. But that’s not all: the writer leads us through her life as a daughter through the waves of language and the forms of poetry. We are in the presence of a poetic prose, in our opinion, of the highest level. Words are the real strength of this novel, much more than history, because they reach magnetic importance on every page; wisely juxtaposed or even isolated: a single word per line – or verse? – drags us from one page to another.

This contemporary literature of ours wants to tell us perhaps “mum is not always mum” and nothing can be given for certain a priori. Shine like life taught us this, in an aggressive and at the same time sweet way; a sweetness provided solely by the river of wisely chosen and juggled words.

The real surprise is in the last pages: reader warned …


Maria Grazia Calandrone, Shine like life, Ponte alle Grazie, Milano, 2021

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