(Viviane Hamy, 150 pages, 2019)
Brimming with anger and teenage angst, eager to make his own decisions, Nathan leaves his familial home at the age of fifteen. He lives in Paris, alone, and rarely visits his family. His childhood friends have all grown up, and he knows that, to them, he is the absent, old friend they occasionally reminisce about. At twenty-eight years old, he looks back on his accomplishments and realizes that each choice he has made in his life has been based on small opportunities, and unexciting and tedious jobs.
As summer approaches, Nathan learns of his younger brother’s accidental death, and drives back to the South of France to bury him. Nathan is welcomed home by his parents’ tremendous pain from their loss, as well as their indifference toward him. Now Nathan must fill in the blanks of his brother Gabriel’s life, and learn about a man he never knew.
In his quest to meet the brother who grew up in his absence, he accepts an invitation to spend a few weeks traveling with Gabriel’s friends—a group of carnies of all talents, shapes, and sizes. He feels welcomed and comforted by the group’s unofficial “Big Brother,” the generous Bastien, and drawn to the group’s resident heartbreaker, the talented and emotionally unavailable Appoline. He alternately feels guilty for not knowing his brother, lost in grief, and confused about what the future holds. Bastien and Appoline introduce Nathan to the troupe’s occasional drug dealer, helping him understand that his brother had been under the influence at the time of the accident. As summer ends and life carries on in his new friends’ lives, Nathan knows that his quest to find Gabriel’s ghost lead him nowhere.
With nothing else left to do, Nathan travels to Brittany, in the northwest of France, a place he’s longed to visit since he left home. He meets Christian, a retired lighthouse electrician with Alzheimer’s disease, who invites Nathan to stay with him and his daughter, Marie, for the final days of his life. As Nathan helps Christian put his affairs in order, Christian recounts to him the tragedies of his life. Nathan draws parallels between his life and his old companion’s, and discovers again the pain in unrequited love, and the art of letting go. Nathan ultimately returns home to spend one final evening with Bastien. Together they remember his lost brother, and Nathan finally confronts and begins to accept his grief.
François Pieretti brings his audience into Nathan’s thoughts as he wanders around the west coast of the French countryside. Pieretti’s talent lies in arousing the reader’s wanderlust and relieving the pressure of decision-making one is accustomed to. Through his poetic and lyrical prose, he builds his characters with patience and forgiveness as they juggle love, loss, mourning, and grief, and try to land on their feet.
François Pieretti was born in 1991. He has worked for Radio Campus Paris (93.9 FM), and as a journalist for ARTE. Carnies is his first novel.