Book Review: Live Bait

Mark Lopez
3 min read
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Tiny towns. Where nothing is heard but the constant barrage of voices connecting, shifting and coming together. Fabio Genovesi’s Live Bait paints Muglione, Italy, as a small, lifeless burg that offers nothing but irrigation ditches, a youth center and a local rock scene that’s almost nonexistent, a place where everyone is searching for something more.

The novel is a collection of perspectives, three individual voices trying to find some sort of direction in an aimless metropolis. There’s Fiorenzo, who skips school relentlessly and seeks fame and fortune through hard rock fantasies, despite having lost one of his hands in an accident. There’s Tiziana, who runs the local youth center, which is mostly inhabited by old men who hang out and talk shop. Then there’s Mirko, the “Little Champ,” snatched up by Fiorenzo’s father, the town cycling expert, to be the next reigning contender in the world of bicycle racing. They all come together, get pulled apart and eventually find some sort of absolution.

From Fiorenzo’s meeting with Tiziana, which eventually leads to a relationship (Fiorenzo’s first) to his days fishing in a nearby irrigation ditch where local legend says a monster lives, the book’s narrative is fluid and entrancing. There’s also the “Little Champ” struggling with school and trying to maintain his undefeated reputation while still deciphering his own individuality. Thus, a triad emerges. Due to Fiorenzo’s difficult relationship with his father, post-hand-accident, and Mirko’s place as his dad’s next hope for cycling glory, a natural friction occurs, but it never seems forced or trite. And since Tiziana is helping Mirko with his schoolwork, she naturally seeks out Fiorenzo as the boy’s confidante.

While the novel’s writing can seem rudimentary at times (as it was translated from Italian), the characters are the real draw. Stretched across 441 pages, they’re never two-dimensional beings, but multifaceted, complex and sometimes funny as hell. Whereas life is measured by days on a calendar, in Genovesi’s novel, these characters’ lives are measured by their connection to the world around them. Whether it’s Fiorenzo relating his life to the art of fishing—taking the risk, when he has no bait, of using dirt and grass wrapped in a ball—the novel’s symbolisms are usually quiet and unassuming. Although at times they get a bit loud: “When a bomb explodes it always does damage, dark or no dark.”

If you’re looking for a novel that delivers great character development, comedic moments and awkward, relatable anecdotes, this is a good place to start. If you’re looking for something a little more lyrical and poetic, then this probably isn’t your cup of tea. Still,
Live Bait is a treat just for the story itself. It’s a captivating example of how even when you’re born in a town with nothing, there’s always something or someone to love.
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