A young man escapes his painful past by retreating to the rustic comfort of the Italian Alps in this gorgeously wrought memoir from the internationally bestselling author of the “exquisite” (Annie Proulx) novel The Eight Mountains.
When life in the city becomes too overwhelming for Paolo, he decides to take refuge high in the Italian mountains. Returning to the breathtaking Valle d’Aosta—known for its snowcapped mountain peaks—after a decade’s absence, he rediscovers a simpler life and develops deep human connections with two neighbors. In this stunning landscape, he begins to take stock of his life and consider what he truly values.
With lyrical and evocative prose, The Wild Boy is a testament to the power of the natural world, the necessity of an ever-questioning mind, and the resilience of the human spirit.
In this rich narrative, novelist Cognetti (The Eight Mountains) tells of leaving Milan for several months to seek refuge in the Alpine village of Fontane, near his family's longtime summer retreat. Feeling "drained, disoriented, and disillusioned," Cognetti arrived hoping to reclaim his drive to write and his "wild boy" soul. As he read Thoreau, worked in his garden, and rock climbed, Cognetti reckoned with the many ironies of his connection to the countryside, including his fear of the night. He befriended Remigio, his landlord and a devotee of Sartre and Camus, and Gabrielle, a shepherd of simple means and great passions, whose companionship helped Cognetti appreciate the world around him. Over the months, he came to realize that rather than trying to find his inner "wild boy," he'd actually been running from himself ("Everywhere I looked, I found myself reflected: distorted, grotesque, multiplied an infinite number of times"). By the book's end, it's clear that his malaise has been lifted, having formed friendships and gained a greater sense of self. Cognetti's beautifully written, thoughtful memoir will resonate with readers searching for escape to a simpler life.