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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Find Me: Time, Love, and New Beginnings


Find Me is an unexpected sequel that deals with taking a chance—or even a second chance—to ask, "What if?"
As someone who loved Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name and its movie adaption, I greatly anticipated Find Me’s release in October. Even before I read Find Me, the general opinion was that the book was disappointing, but like any good reader I refused to form my opinion until I had experienced the novel in its entirety. (My devotion to CMBYN was also a contributing factor.) When I cracked open Find Me for the first time, I was a bit confused. Who is this person talking? What year is it? What does any of this have to do with Call Me By Your Name? For readers coming back to the continuation of their beloved story, they might be surprised by the new voice that greets them.

Find Me’s predecessor, 2007's Call Me By Your Name, is a romance set in Italy during the summer of 1983. Over the summer, 17-year-old Elio Perlman falls in love with Oliver, a doctoral student from the US finishing his dissertation with the guidance of Elio's father Samuel, a classics professor. For the six weeks that they are together, the young men keep their romance a secret, in intimate moments calling each other by the other’s name as if to erase the line where one of them begins and the other ends. At the end of their time together, as Oliver leaves to return to the US, he reveals that he is engaged, and the pair is forced to build their lives without one another, destined never to be together again.

Or so we thought.

Enter Find Me, and cue the spoiler alert.

Whereas CMBYN was narrated by 17-year-old Elio, Find Me begins with a different voice that we learn is Elio’s father, Samuel Perlman. Wow, wasn’t expecting that. CMBYN was an intimate story that contained explicit details of the acts of love between the story’s youth. Suddenly we’re hearing the voice of the father of the teenager who spent the last book making love to another man. The expectation was to hear from a young voice with something to learn, but we’re met with a seasoned voice who in reality is still learning from life. Don’t get too disappointed; we still get to hear from a young voice. The book is split between three perspectives, Samuel, Elio, AND Oliver.

Find Me starts ten years after the events of the first novel with Samuel, now divorced, on a train to Rome to visit Elio, who has become a classical pianist. En route, he meets Miranda, a twentysomething woman, and the two connect through their similar experiences of being unable to love their past partners deeply. Samuel can’t hide his attraction to Miranda, an attraction that is not unrequited. The pair throw out their plans and spontaneously decide to spend the day in Rome together, and later to spend a night together in bed. The two seem to be on a euphoric high that actually works out for them in the end. They traipse about the city, throwing around the ideas of getting tattoos and having a baby, never wanting their bodies to be the same, with Miranda saying, “I can’t go back to my life. And I don’t want you to go back to yours, Sami.”

Flash forward five years. We’re back to Elio’s perspective: he is now living in Paris as a concert pianist. He finds himself falling in love with another older man, Michel, and they spend a few weeks together. But being with Michel brings up memories of Oliver and feelings that never quite went away. He knows he can never love anyone the same, saying, “Some shadows never go away.”

In another five years the perspective switches to Oliver, who is finishing his tenure at the university job that took him away from Elio. Drunk at his going away party, he looks at all the people there to wish him farewell and feels alone. Then someone starts playing the piano and Oliver’s thoughts fly to Elio, whom he never forgot, as if he is in the music asking Oliver to find him.

Samuel Perlman’s monologue at the end of CMBYN was one of the most beautifully written conversations and one of the most revered parts of the book’s movie adaptation. And it might be why Samuel opens the show for us in Find Me. Because CMBYN focused almost solely on Elio and Oliver, readers did not get to know the classics professor in depth; we learn more about Samuel in his monologue than in the entire book. Find Me gives us some insight on how he became so wise. In 1983, Samuel said, “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing as to not feel anything? What a waste!” Samuel lost hope for himself but was trying to give some to his son. In Find Me there is the feeling that Samuel gets to live out his life as if he were talking to himself from decades past.

The perfect ending to the 1983 love story we wanted was a mirage that we got a glimpse of at the end of the book. After waiting 246 pages until Elio and Oliver are reunited, we are left wanting more. We could be angry, or we could listen to what Aciman writes: “Fate doesn’t respect what we believe is the end . . . Which is why I think all lives are condemned to remain unfinished.” Aciman’s painting-like prose leaves one dazed as if waking from a daydream, and I mean that in the best way possible. There are parts where characters feel distant and parts when their dialogue is so frank that it punches you in the face. Miranda is blunt and expressive because she knows what she wants. Oliver is far away, because he is not the same Oliver that we knew. The novel has no chapters, so the act of reading feels addictive. The best parts of Aciman’s work are the monologue-type speeches that pop up in characters’ conversations. These idealistic patterns of speech that have seemed to die out in the 21st century.

There are some parts of the story that I’m not sure I can buy into. After the night they meet, Samuel tells Miranda that “my entire life . . . was leading up to you.” My question for him is: How can you discredit your entire life for a girl you met over one weekend? But a quote from earlier in the novel explains the plotline perfectly: “So you could say that we’ve overwritten and lived each other’s memories.” Though it’s an unexpected journey, it is a journey nonetheless and an ideal end that came from a wayward plotline.

The back cover of the book poses a question to its readers: Does love ever die? Of course it does. Just look at the relationship between Samuel and Elio’s mother, or Samuel’s past lover. But I guess that’s a question only the characters can answer. Samuel found someone new to love, and Elio and Oliver were reunited, so there’s a good chance they’d disagree with me.

I was not disappointed by Find Me because we, as people, don’t get to decide how someone else lives their life. Not everyone gets the chance to live out a romantic "what if?" This is a story about love, which is sometimes sparked through spontaneity and sometimes reaches through decades to find people once more.

  • About the Author
    Mady Wilson is a second year Literature and Professional Writing double major and Social Justice Studies minor. She hopes to someday work in the editing department of a publishing house working directly with literature, or be an advocate for diverse forms of writing from minority writers. At Miami University she is involved in Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Honor Society of Sociology, and is a Writing Consultant at Howe Writing Center. In her free time she loves to paint, draw, and practice calligraphy.

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