The First True Lie by Marina Mander

10-year-old Luca is completely on his own in the world. With an absentee father and his mother’s corpse decomposing in her room, Luca struggles to fend for himself and his affectionate cat, Blue. At first, he struggled to convince himself that his mother was only sleeping, but as the days pass, Luca slowly begins to accept the dire nature of his situation. He is terrified that he will be forced to go to an orphanage once authorities find out that he has no parents, so he decides to live alone in the apartment as any adult would. Well, any adult with a dead mother stinking up the place.

The First True Lie is a unique novella that can easily be read in one sitting. Luca’s narration feels both authentic and heart wrenching. We can understand why he is afraid to get help, but at the same time we desperately want him to get some. One would think that a child’s first reaction would be to seek help, but Luca does just the opposite. His mom’s friend even calls at one point, but Luca quickly insists that his mother is occupied and cannot take any phone calls. Although he seems in denial that Mama is actually dead, Luca’s persistent sense of self-preservation from the very start suggests otherwise. Thus we are treated to a truly original story as Mander explores the inner workings of Luca’s thought process, which is that of a child coping with an adult dilemma.

Carefully written and emotionally told, this is a fun little read. “Fun” is probably not the best word, the subject matter is very much not fun. But it is rewarding, so in that regard, The First True Lie is an enjoyable and worthwhile novel.

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