In a poverty-stricken neighbourhood wedged between the city and the sea, a father and son struggle to keep their heads above water. Rather than being discouraged by their difficulties and hardship, their response is to come up with increasingly bizarre and imaginative plans in order to get by. Even when a horrifying, macabre event rocks the neighbourhood’s gritty bar district and the locals start to flee, father and son decide to stay put. What matters is staying together.
This is a bold, poignant text that juxtaposes a very tender father-son relationship with the son's sexual liberation and a brutal depiction of homophobic violence. Giuseppe Caputo uses delicate — yet electrifying — lyricism and imagery to weave a tale that balances desire, violence, discrimination, love, eroticism and defiance, while evoking with surreal humour the social marginalisation of the protagonists as they struggle to keep afloat in a society where there are no safety nets.
Like a brightly-lit theme park with its house of horrors, reminiscent in parts of James Baldwin’s Another Country or Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex trilogy, An Orphan World defies the reader to look away, and the reward is an exhilarating carnival ride filled with beauty, compassion and loss.