I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. It is translated into English from the original Italian novel.
Giacomo Musso finds himself in an Italian prison, accused of having a role in the violent death of his wife. Giacomo’s lawyer, in order to help prove his client’s innocence, asks Giacomo to write his story down on paper. The story that he writes while he is incarcerated does not begin just before his wife’s death. Giacomo asks his lawyer for a box of old photographs and through these photos he retraces his marriage all the way back to the first time his met his wife when they were living in Paris.
The first half of the story is the best part as it describes Giacomo as a shy man who gradually wins Shirin’s love. They live in her apartment in Paris for about a year and then they decide to move back to Giacomo’s small hometown which is high in the mountains in Northern Italy. Giacomo takes job a as an elementary school teacher in his hometown where he teaches 12 children of all different grades in a one room schoolhouse.
Giacomo and Shirin’s life, however, is completely changed by their decision to live in this small town. Although they are charmed by the scenery, the history of Giacomo’s ancestral home and the childhood friends who welcome Shirin, racism soon rears its ugly head. Events soon occur that prove this isolated part of Italy is rife with prejudice against Muslims and although she is a French citizen, Shirin’s Iranian descent makes her the target of racial bigotry.
This book made me think, once again, about marriage and relationships. At the first sign of trouble, Giacomo and Shirin’s marriage begins to crumble. They are portrayed by Giacomo in his writing as a happy pair who never argue or even bicker. But when a serious situation arises that tests their love, they turn on each other and take out their resentment on the very person who should be offering succor.
Shirin’s response to the isolation she suffers as a result of racism is one of extreme, and even violent, retaliation. This reminds me of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri which city had a rash of violent protests, burnings and lootings. When a group of people become victims of racial profiling, bigotry and persecution, the reaction of these victims is oftentimes that of violence and outrage. But in both the case of Shirin and the looters in Ferguson, is violence really a reaction that will bring about an end to racial tension and bigotry? I am not saying we can blame these victims for such a reactive response, but in the end what does it really solve?
FOR THEY HAVE SOWN THE WIND is for those readers who like a thought-provoking book about marriage, relationships, racism and small town life.