As a young adult, author M.E. Evans’ world is made up of dead-end jobs and strip clubs, useless boyfriends and a yearning for something more. When her younger brother starts crushing up pills and shooting them into his arm, she helps him get clean and enroll in culinary school, his life-long dream. Then he dies while accidentally mixing doctor prescribed Valium and alcohol. Escaping to Florence, Italy, and trying to find her voice as a painter is Evans’ way of dealing with the terrible pain and trauma of losing her beloved sibling.
Evans writes in a prickly voice, studded with curses and swagger but also bravely vulnerable and revealing. Exploring sexuality, feelings of being an art fraud, culture shock and human intimacy, Evans is an engaging and darkly funny narrator. Her writing about her brother’s death and complicated family life is soulful and stinging, descriptions of Florence, art teachers and fellow students vibrant and visual. Though rough around the edges, without a clear narrative pull, NAKED (IN ITALY) sometimes gets lost in the daily details of graduate school life, it is still a pleasure to read.
Through Italian romances, friendships and cultural observations which are both astute and irreverent, Evans story becomes a bit meandering. She meets Francesco, a handsome older man from Southern Italy and her story becomes wrapped up in their tumultuous romance, and her budding confidence as a multi-media artist. But the interesting deeper threads of her family in Utah, her brother’s loss and her own identity beg to be further explored. When Evans returns for a family visit to the United States, her words sing with love, sadness and a psychological depth that her adventures in Italy lack.
Fans of revealing and rebellious personal narratives will find a familiar friend in Evans’ open no-holds-barred style. Set against the backdrop of Florence, Capri, Rome and the Italian countryside, this is an exciting travel-memoir from a unique perspective. Through her years in Italy, Evans finds love, finds herself and shares this journey with readers in a sometimes messy, sometimes magical, always singular style.
NAKED (IN ITALY) in an engaging memoir about family trauma, artistic exploration and romance in a foreign country and author M.E. Evans’ voice is wry, rebellious and vulnerable, giving readers an exotic, exuberant front row seat to her wild graduate school adventures abroad.
~Royal Young for IndieReader