At the tail end of the 1960s, the thirteen-year-old Michelino spends his summers at his grandparents’ modest estate in Nasca, near Lake Maggiore, losing himself in the tales of horror, adventure, and mystery shelved in his grandfather’s library. The greatest mystery he’s ever encountered, however, doesn’t come from a book—it's the groundskeeper, Felice, a sometimes frightening, sometimes gentle, always colorful man of uncertain age who speaks an enchanting dialect and whose memory gets worse with each passing day. When Michelino volunteers to help the old man by providing him with clever mnemonic devices to keep his memory alive, the boy soon finds himself obsessed with piecing together the eerie hodgepodge of Felice’s biography . . . a quest that leads to the uncovering of skeletons in Nazi uniforms in the attic, to Felice’s admission that he can hear the voices of the dead, and to a new perspective on Felice’s endless war against the insatiable local slugs, who are by no means merely a horticultural threat.
And yet nothing could be more fascinating to Michelino than Felice’s own secret origins. Where did he come from? Is he the victim or the villain of his story? Is he a noble hero, a holy fool, or perhaps the very thing that Michelino most wants and fears: a real-life monster.
“If I were to give a book award to a living Italian writer, man or woman, I'd pick Michele Mari.” —Domenico Starone, I-Italy
“The greatest living Italian writer.”— Andrea Coccia, Linkiesta
“The charm that Mari exercises on his readers, from the most devoted to the most distracted, is incredible . . . More than anyone else, Michele Mari represents today a model of writer that seems on the point of disappearing—fully literary, lofty, in short, twentieth-century.” —Sara Marzullo, Esquire