Under the Bridge

by F. G. Paci,
206 pages,
ISBN: 0887508804

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Pat Barclay

F. G. PACI, who arrived in Canada at the age of five, writes about that third solitude, the world of the modem immigrant. Black Blood (1991) introduced readers to Marco, Paci's young hero, whose parents brought him and his younger sister Lianna to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, from Naples in 1953; Under the Bridge (Oberon, 176 pages, $29.95 cloth, $15.95 paper) continues Marco's story. Now an adolescent, Marco has problems in spades. After 10 years in Canada, Mamma still can't speak English, and "Babbo" - a millwright at the steel plant whose workman's hands humiliate his bookish son - doesn't understand a thing. Other flies in Marco's ointment include his two-year feud with Lianna. (well-matched in pigheadedness, they haven't spoken to each other for two years), an extreme case of acne, and his continuing guilt and anger over the senseless death of his close friend, Perry (see Black Blood).

Fuelled by his raging hormones, Marco's frustrations are understood only by Rico, an out-of-control dropout who finds salvation in the wilderness and insists on sharing his discovery. Meanwhile, Marco makes discoveries of his own, some of them in the public library: "The words [of the great writers] ... were their blood, which coursed through my veins, displacing my father's blood, and nourishing my inner voice, my secret self."

Perhaps inevitably, the story of Marco in his adolescence is a compendium of cliches. At times, his more self-inflicted woes provoke the powerful urge to give him a swift kick where it will do the most good. In the end, though, Paci's own urgency and flashes of genuine originality make a strong impression. Under the Bridge reveals a large talent, confined within the boundaries of a familiar story.


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