On December 1, 1958, a fire broke out at Chicago’s Our Lady of the Angels School. There were no fire alarms and no evacuation protocols, and ninety-two children died. Where My Body Ends and the World Begins, set ten years later, follows twenty-year-old Anthony Lazzeri, whose survivor’s guilt pits him against his family, his neighbors, his sometime-girlfriend, and even his own body.
In his latest novel, Tony Romano (When the World Was Young and If You Eat, You Never Die) delivers a moving investigation of the impact trauma has on its survivors. Though the plot flows smoothly over several twists and turns, the characters and the world they live in are what truly drive the plot forward. Both are completely and specifically rendered in nearly tangible detail as Romano drops readers into Anthony Lazzeri’s mind. There, we watch as he wrestles with the fractured relationships and self-deceptions that have taken over in the wake of the fire.
Romano, who was born in San Salvatore Telesino, Italy, and grew up in Chicago, vividly paints the Italian-American neighborhood where his protagonist lives and perfectly captures the gruff camaraderie among the city workers on the job and at the bars. This is, unmistakably, Mike Royko and Carl Sandburg’s Chicago.
This moving coming-of-age novel deftly weaves a pivotal moment in Chicago’s history and one young man’s tentative journey toward self-forgiveness into a powerful exploration of loss, community, and the resilience of the human mind and body.
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