Some books are just pitch perfect – a harmonious blend of nuanced characters and evocative storytelling coupled with emotive graphics. With Generations, Flavia Biondi has created a thoughtful story full of pathos and heart – a perfect ode that seamlessly captures the life of the millennial adult. For Generations is a modern day fable complete with a moral, as told through the eyes of someone who was lost and who had to discover what truly mattered in his life – in a way that only family can do.
Story: Teo returns to his small Italian village in defeat; he left to pursue a relationship with a man he met online, living in the big city of Milan with the hope to finally be himself. But three years later, he has no job, no income, and his relationship has ended. Now he has to face the family he left behind: the father with whom he clashed when he ran away, the Aunts who he never understood, and the grandmother who always supported him. He knows he cannot return to his father and so chooses to live with his grandmother and three single Aunts, as well as his very pregnant cousin. It’s a full house and he’s about to be given life lessons as he learns to adapt to his new life.
Although Generations has a gay hero, his lifestyle is not really the heart of Generations. Rather, the book is about Teo finding perspective through the lives of us family. Each of the Aunts has led an interesting life and he soon realizes that he knows very little about them – it’s always been about Te0 battling against no one understanding him, when he never took the time to understood everyone else. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition that is gently discovered in time. One Aunt was happily married, widowed, and now with no children, one Sunt had a child out of wedlock with a wealthy married man but never married herself, and one Aunt became a spinster. Their personalities are very much shaped by their life situations.
A protagonist so down on his life – dumped, poor, and no place to go – could be a very downer of a book. And there are no miracles to be found here. Teo works with his quirky family as they work with or around him. It is in the slow reveal of the Aunts, his grandmother, and even his cousin that we (and Teo) get a true understanding of life. Yet surprisingly, this is anything but a downer of a book. At not time does the story wallow in Teo’s unhappiness or misery. It’s about him moving away from taking life one day at a time and instead understanding the long road.
This is one of the sweetest and most grounded stories I’ve read in quite awhile. I enjoyed every part of the book – from provincial Italian life to the fascinating (yet not sensationalist or overreaching) backstories that made up the adults. The Aunts are not perfect and made their mistakes, for better or worse. Their experiences are the lessons Teo has to learn in order to really know what he wants in life and how to approach it.
In essence, Generations is about Teo’s transition from lost to found. There is no deus ex machina or overdramatic moments. It’s a simple yet beautifully told story that keeps you interested, a wonderful look at Italian culture but also the issues that Millennials face in today’s world.
You will find fewer allegories as rich yet poetic as Generations does for the Millennial generation. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.