In Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman crafts both an intimate coming of age tale and heartbreaking coming out story. The novel chronicles the short but passionate relationship between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver. Elio is the incredibly intelligent son of an academic who annually welcomes a research assistant during their summers on the Italian coast. While many have visited, Elio is transfixed by the newest arrival, Oliver. Despite the uncertainty that punctuates their relationship, they develop desire, love, and friendship over the course of six short weeks. As both Elio and Oliver navigate their unique bond, they each struggle with societal pressures and internal shame. As all summer’s end, their relationship is cut short before it is even begun. Their lives diverge, meeting throughout the years to share different realities but similar questions of what could have been.
Aciman writes with such honesty and compassion that Elio and Oliver vividly come to life. The novel reads like a diary as well as reflection on the past, revealing Elio’s deepest insecurities and most personal thoughts. Despite his youth, it is hard to ignore the loneliness that mars Elio’s existence. Aciman geniously describes the fears of unrequited love and the longing to be understood, to be seen exactly for who one is.While this novel is a slow burn, it made the moments of happiness and passion that much more exciting and deserved. This novel pulled me in, revealing itself to be a painful love letter to a relationship that could never be. In the end, there lies a deep and overwhelming sadness as Elio and Oliver parted ways and into lives that could never quite recover from the moments they once shared.
Call Me By Your Name is in stores now. (FSG, $17.00, ISBN 1250169445).