Book Review: André Aciman's Find Me
From the first page the tune of Sufjan Stevens‘ Mystery of Love follows me throughout the reading. It was a perfect musical match for the acclaimed movie Call Me By Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the novel of the same name written by André Aciman. And it still is for its sequel Find Me.
Those who read Call Me By Your Name or at least watched the movie, were left wondering what might have happened to young Elio and his beloved Oliver after they carried on with their lives apart. More than a decade later André Aciman comes back with a revelation, though there still lingers the doubt, whether it would have been so probable, if not the global success of the movie.
Find Me continues the writer‘s tradition of elegant language style and highly sophisticated characters. Thus the reading itself becomes an utter enjoyment impaired with the most beautiful sense of melancholy. It‘s like observing your most desired dream staged by others: performance is excellent while relevance to reality - equal to zero.
Don‘t expect to meet Elio and Oliver from the first pages. The novel is split into four parts, and the first - the longest - is not about any two of them. Find Me starts with Elio‘s father Sami, now a divorcé, taking a train to Rome to meet his son, but an accidental encounter with a young lady Miranda and a subsequent conversation with her on the way to Rome changes Sami‘s plans and ultimately his life. It all sounds very romantic when two accidental strangers experience love at first sight and on a spur of the moment decide to link their lives together and even have children. However, even for a literary work it might feel too gibberish. Or perhaps trains to Rome are of some premium level specialty, as, trust me, the trains, for instance, to Milan don‘t bear intellectual conversations on music or life philosophy between the passengers sitting next to each other, not to mention love hovering in the air.
André Aciman praises the concept of love and puts it above any prejudices. The age is not an obstacle to him, and he stresses it even trice. From the description the reader is able to calculate that Sami is approximately thirty years older than Miranda. But she is so attracted that immediately invites him to visit her father together and in 24 hours agrees to come to his house by the sea and even expresses a wish to have his child. The writer keeps justifying the age difference in a relationship, stating that there isn't one: „To me it proves that life and time are not in sync... Because ultimately it isn't time that is wrong for us, or we for time. It may be life itself that is wrong.“
Turning the last pages of the first part of the novel and romantically accepting this incredible love story of Sami and Miranda, the reader expects the upcoming developments between Elio and Oliver. However, the second part brings us Elio and his new French lover Michel who is also nearly twice Elio‘s age. Elio, now a famous pianist, lives in Paris and still talks to Oliver in his head. But one Sunday night a stranger speaks up to him at a church concert. Hence, one more spontaneous love story with highly intellectual discourses and historical investigations. Elio tries to help Michel to find a mysterious Ariel who was somehow related to Michel‘s father and sent him a handwritten cadenza as an expression of love. They come to a conclusion that Ariel probably was twice Michel father‘s age, and „life is not so original after all.“
The third part finally flies overseas to Oliver where he still lives with his wife and two sons. However, as he confesses to one of his party guests „Some people leave us scuttled and damaged. In my case I‘m the one who did the scuttling, yet I‘m the one who never recovered.“ So there‘s no escape for a happy ending. Oliver should stop waiting and go back to that „wonderful house by the sea“.
Sufjan Stevens‘ Mystery of Love still haunts me from my mind‘s background, though the reading is already done. André Aciman created a fine-cut ode to love that is independent of age, gender and time, however so improbable and unreal, especially when, according to Elio, it is simply enough to come and find your love. Therefore I‘d better stick to the statement told by his farther: „We only want those we can‘t have. It‘s those we lost or who never knew we existed who leave their mark. The others barely echo.“