Where My Body Ends and the World Begins imagines what it might be like for one of the survivors of the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels School that killed ninety-two students and three nuns in 1958. Anthony Lazzaro was one of the survivors and carries that guilt with him along with the ghost of his sister Ellie. His neighbor Lipschultz, a retired cop, thinks his guilt is more immediate than that, insinuating that Anthony may have set the fire.
Anthony suffers from Body Integrity Identity Disorder, though no such diagnosis existed back then. His leg feels foreign to him and he deliberately breaks his leg at the beginning of the book. Lipschultz sees this as a manifestation of his guilt, his friends and family see it as survivor’s guilt. He does feel guilt, but so does his best friend Maryann who also survived the fire, escaping from the same classroom where Ellie died.
Adding to his guilt, his family broke apart after the fire. His father sank into a bottle and moved out. Then even his mother moved out. He stays with his Nonna and Ellie’s ghost and an increasingly menacing neighbor.
I loved Where My Body Ends and the World Begins. Romano has created a real sense of community where people take care of each other and know each other’s business. Anthony’s mental illness is central to the story and is satisfyingly complex, capturing the mystery of an unnamed disease. I also love that this book surprised me. Wow! I was completely overthrown by some of the revelations at the end, yet the biggest surprise did not come out of nowhere.
I can’t spoil it for you, but I must say I have never been so surprised by a twist that is completely fair. Usually, with a twist like this, it comes out of left field, but this one comes straight from the pitcher’s mound and yet, the story is so artfully told that most readers will be shocked.
I received an Advance Reading Copy of Where My Body Ends and the World Begins from the publisher through LibraryThing.