Praise God, Never the Wind
1996 – Luca Saracino is thirteen and has been completely blind for eight months when his parents move to a Southern Italian farmhouse they dream of turning into a hotel. With his brother dropping out of university and the family reeling from Luca’s diagnosis, they are chasing dreams of rebirth and reinvention.
As Luca tells his story without sight – experiencing the world solely through hearing, smell, taste and touch – he meets the dauntless Ada Guadalupi, who takes him out to explore the rocky fields and empty beaches. But Luca and Ada find they can’t escape the grudges that have lasted between their families for generations, or the gossiping of the town. And Luca is preyed upon by the feral Wanderer, who walks the vineyards of his home. As Luca’s family starts to crack at the seams, Luca and Ada have to navigate new lands and old rivalries to uncover the truths spoken as whispers on the wind.
Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Set in that stunning corner of Southern Italy that is Puglia, Never the Wind tells of the events from the summer of ’96, the year Luca Saracino moved south from the city of Turin after losing his sight, and his parents decide to build a new life – and a new business – out of his grandfather’s old grange. As Luca learns to navigate his new home without his sight, he begins to sense a sinister presence around the property and in the fields, which manifests in an absence of any sound other than a soft tap, tap, and in an acrid feral smell.
Tied to this mystery is the start of his friendship with Ada Guadalupi, the girl next door, who takes him under her wing and believes his story about this wanderer he has encountered. She becomes his world for the summer; the one who treats him as just Luca instead of ‘Luca the blind boy’, and takes him on all kinds of adventures. But Ada has secrets too, and their two families have not always been on friendly terms. In the long summer days, the Wanderer’s presence isn’t the only danger Luca and Ada will face.
The entire story is told by Luca about 25 years later, in the present day, and I enjoyed the occasional allusions to his life as a grown man while still witnessing the boy. And Luca really made this story; I warmed immediately to him and his narrative voice. His descriptions were so vivid, painting a picture with sound, smell, and feel, and I felt at times that I was actually there! His tone was at times playful, at times nostalgic, always honest, and fully Italian. The characters and their dialogue were something I could so easily translate in my mind and I sometimes forgot I was reading in English… I think Dimitri did an incredible job writing a character that is coming to terms with his blindness, yet is not defined by it.
I do want to dress some expectations, though: Never the Wind is rightfully labelled a fantasy, but it might be better to describe it as ‘magical realism’. This is a story set in our world, and while there is pure magic in the writing, the fantastical is something to be glimpsed, though it certainly affects everything it touches. If you want something epic and fast-paced, this might not be the book for you. Having said that, I can confidently say that this is a story which will stay with me, and grow larger in my mind in the act of remembering it… it is raw, lyrical, and utterly unique. I think a part of me fully believes it, and so the next time I find myself in Puglia, I will pay close attention to the wind.
Published: 7th June 2022 by Titan Books
Narration style: first person, past tense
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: ableism, child abuse, violence, death, death of a child, guns