Kickshaws (name derived from a Shakespearean word in Twelfth Night) was fun. They have an array of creative and healthy food options. I loved my kale-quinoa salad.The others seemed happy with their burgers/sandwiches. The celebrated appetizer here is the blistered shishito peppers, and you should definitely get them!
The story is an examination of an intense friendship between Lenu (our narrator) and Lila (the titular friend). Interestingly, we begin from the perspective of Lenu as an elderly woman. Lila has apparently gone missing, which she does often in an attempt to be "invisible." Lenu proceeds to relate the entirety of their friendship's history--beginning in their childhoods in a small village in Naples. Though the novel focuses on such small details, down to the very glances they give one another, the plot doesn't seem to drag. Or perhaps the magic is that the plot winds through its dramas primarily to give us a psychological study of the girls. The study is fascinating as we probe Lenu's mind for clues as to the thoughts of Lila and others through their words and actions. Characters exchange roles from villain to prince to monster as events progress, and the cliffhanger at the end is tantalizing.
Clearly, we liked this one a lot. The only thing that kept some of us from handing it 5 full stars is the fact that it's only the first novel in a quartet, and it may not be possible to fully evaluate the story without finding out how these girls turn into the characters we see at the opening.
“I knew - perhaps I hoped - that no form could ever contain Lila, and that sooner or later she would break everything again.”
"You still waste time with those things, Lenu? We are flying over a ball of fire. The part that has cooled floats on the lava. On that part we construct the buildings, the bridges, and the streets, and every so often the lava comes out of Vesuvius or causes an earthquake that destroys everything. There are microbes everywhere that make us sick and die. There are wars. There is a poverty that makes us all cruel. Every second something might happen that will cause you such suffering that you'll never have enough tears. And what are you doing? A theology course in which you struggle to understand what the Holy Spirit is? Forget it, it was the Devil who invented the world, not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."