Centered in Rome but transporting us into worlds as varied and alluring as they are emotionally real, Francesca Marciano’s stories paint landscapes that are populated—vividly, hauntingly—by animals: from violent seagulls and starlings circling the evening sky in exhilarating formation to magical snakes and a tiny dog on the side of a deserted road.
In unforgettable, cinematic frames, events unfold, especially in the lives of women. An affair ends painfully at a dinner table, an actress’s past comes crashing down on her during an audition, an unhappy wife seeks respite in a historic palazzo sublet. Two starkly different couples imagine parenthood during a Greek island holiday and a young girl returns from rehab, deciding to set out anew with a traveling circus. A man in crisis draws his ex-lover deep into the New Mexico desert.
With spellbinding clarity, the six masterly stories in Animal Spirit inhabit the minds and hearts of Marciano’s characters. They chronicle deeply human moments of realization and recognition, indelible instants of irrevocable change—epiphanies sometimes sparked by our connection with animals and the primal power they show us.
About the Author
FRANCESCA MARCIANO is the author of the novels Rules of the Wild, Casa Rossa, and The End of Manners, and the story collection The Other Language. She lives in Rome.
“These moody, elegant stories took my breath away. Francesca Marciano lures her reader so“ effortlessly from dazzling cosmopolitan worlds into the jungles of instinct, rage, and desire within each of us. Animal Spirit is as unsettling as it is impossible to resist.” —Mia Alvar, author of In the Country
“[A] sharp-eyed and effortlessly graceful collection, set largely in the author’s native Italy, explores the ways people’s animalistic instincts drive relationships . . . In “Terrible Things Could Happen to Us,” wealthy family man Sandro falls in love with his yoga teacher, and Marciano’s lack of sentimentality keeps things taut until a devastating denouement . . . In “There Might Be Blood,” Diana decamps to Rome to write her long-deferred novel. Rather than writing, she obsesses over seagulls . . . In this story, and throughout the collection, Marciano skillfully uses her characters’ relationships with animals as metaphors to explore their humanity. Polished and compulsively readable, this is a real treat.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Marciano’s ability is to capture the entire arc of a character’s life in a handful of pages.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“I love Francesca Marciano’s work so much. Every story grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let you go until its last glorious sentence. Each one reads like a short perfect novel. She is brilliant. Please read this book immediately!” —Lily King, author ofWriters and Lovers
“The fates of [her] characters are shaped by the animals whose lives intersect theirs . . . Marciano is a master at making even the most seemingly banal settings seem forbiddingly foreign . . . and she excels at crafting conclusions that are both satisfying and enigmatic.” —Margaret Quamme, Booklist
“Marciano's latest is made up of six longish stories set mostly in a vibrantly described Rome, often involving animals as pets or predators . . . [The opening story] sucks the reader in immediately . . . and has a layered structure that gives it the rich, leisurely feel of a Fellini film . . . Death’s lasting power echoes back through the stories, but Marciano’s closing lines offer hard-won hope . . . Emotionally charged issues of commitment, loyalty, and trust explored with dry yet oddly comforting European wit.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“In Francesca Marciano’s new collection, Italians experience love and loss, violence, and madness, at home and abroad . . . The human couplings in Animal Spirit are fraught and consuming, but the animals set the stage. They are exotic, and erotic. Think about dancing with a seven-foot python wrapped around your body. And don’t forget the skimpy costume.” —Louisa Ermelino, Publishers Weekly
"With this collection of radiant short stories set mostly in Rome, Marciano claims a spot beside the best practitioners of the form. From a lawyer enmeshed in a messy affair to a grieving film director to a woman fleeing a rocky marriage, Marciano’s characters tread gingerly across emotional minefields, “kaleidoscopically vulnerable” amid the piazze and palazzi of the Eternal City. Creatures of all kinds—a beguiling stray pup, Hitchcockian seagulls—guide them toward keener understandings of their own desires." —O, The Oprah Magazine
"Really satisfying . . . Stories include a hawk and a falcon, a herd of elk, a flock of starlings. My favorite was "The Girl," in which a teenager in the Italian countryside ends up getting picked up hitchhiking one day by a man who turns out to be a circus performer. He takes her away from her dreary life with her horrible family, and teaches her to be part of his snake charmer art . . . Ada's connection to the snakes is profound . . . Exotic settings, wild animals, Italian details—thank you, Francesca Marciano." —Marion Winik, Baltimore Public Radio
"[Animal Spirit] surprised me with its power. I am stunned that I had never heard of Francesca Marciano before, and I think it is time we put her name on the map . . . Each of her stories engage a nuanced discussion about how outer factors . . . impact relationship[s]. And while these stories are not connected, certain common themes give this collection a more cohesive feel than most short story collections can achieve . . . [Marciano] is such a clear-eyed writer, showing with particular skill and compassion what makes her characters tick, and though these stories can ostensibly be said to be “about animals,” they are, in truth, about us—about all of the lovely and terrible things that make us human." —Ashley Riggleson, Fredericksburg Freelance Star