2 out of 4 stars
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The Locked Self and Other Stories by Silvano Bistazzoni contains one larger story that takes up most of the book and three smaller, independent ones. The main story, “The Locked Self,” follows nine-year-old Jo’s therapy sessions with the narrator. Jo comes from a difficult family situation that includes some of the hardships one normally thinks of when considering a troubled childhood: neglect, abuse, alcoholism, lack of parental guidance and instability. The narrator is tasked with connecting with Jo and helping to bring about positive behavior and self-discovery. Both “The Locked Self” and the other three stories are certainly emotional ones, as you might imagine, so readers should be prepared to deal with extremely difficult situations and some disturbing graphic details.
I enjoyed reading about Jo and the narrator’s relationship as their rapport changes many times while they get to know each other and outside forces impact their visits. The other stories include “The Round Trip Home,” “All Systems Go,” and “Island, A Family.” Respectively, they follow the stories of the effects on others after attending a marriage by the sea, a woman suffering from a difficult marriage and a community of islanders whose lives will be interrupted by a horrific tragedy. The book certainly doesn’t shy away from confronting readers with the realities people face every day and I respected each of the stories for the truth, however harsh it may be, of the characters’ struggle to find themselves and cope with tragedy.
Unfortunately, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars because of the significant amount of grammatical errors present and the overall lack of structure which both make it difficult to focus solely on the stories. Normally, errors aren’t something in which to get caught up, but the mistakes were on just about every page and were of a distracting nature, such as missing words in sentences like “I get frustrated and sometimes angry with because they are like robots and you cannot argue with their robotic attitude” (pg 64) and “The assistant who answered didn’t know about Jo and his” (pg 60), with the latter containing a period after “his.” Other times, the mistakes were more subtle—missing articles, incorrect dialogue punctuation, sentence fragments—but still distracting because of their frequency.
If I were permitted to give ratings with decimals, I would give the book 2.5 stars because I did appreciate the messages it conveys about self-discovery and tragedy. However, I decided on 2 stars, rather than bumping it up to 3, because there seemed to lack some cohesiveness to the book’s organization. While I can see how all the stories would belong in the same collection, as they all deal with difficult issues and do share certain imagery such as the sea, I felt the layout was a bit disorganized. For example, rather than simply dividing the book into stories, it was divided into chapters, with the chapter numbers continuing numerically but under a different title when a new story began. This had me wondering at first if the other stories were somehow supposed to be a part of the main one. I eventually understood that they were separate after reading them, but found the uncertainty at the beginning to interrupt the reading process.
On a positive note, the first story about Jo and his therapist is often interrupted by the narrator’s flashbacks and imaginings—at least I took them for imaginings rather than actual scenarios—of what was happening at Jo’s home. I really like that these scenes were a part of the book because I can see how therapists would certainly reflect on their own childhoods as a result of working with children. At times, I did find the scenes a bit abruptly placed but all in all, I enjoyed having several different scenes and ideas woven together. I would recommend reading the story if the topic interests you—Bistazzoni is certainly an expert when it comes to counseling and psychotherapy—provided you can look past the errors and focus solely on the meaningful stories told within the book.
The Locked Self and Other Stories
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