To begin, I must say that I am enjoying this novel and its narrator immensely. The honest, personal quality of Liz’s writing highlights the reader’s awareness of its author. This is Liz’s story; she grapples with very real emotions and questions inherent in all human beings. She is very direct, but is simultaneously able to transmit a complex and eloquent writing style as well; she is sincere and is able to pull her readers into her experience. The transformation of this young woman stems from her bravery in rejecting a life she is not happy with. She does not settle for what is expected and seeks more for herself. Liz embraces her confusion and sadness and tries to fix it rather than tolerate it. The ties to food, whether creating something out of nothing or finding pleasure in its consumption, are also telling of Liz’s pursuit of pleasure and happiness. Her search for God, or some higher power in which to turn, I feel, leads Liz to find solace within.
I was particularly moved by the moments when Liz found a friend in herself. This is expressed through the letter she writes to herself as well as her personal journal. The elevator mirror story sticks out in my mind as well. Upon first glance, Liz, catching her reflection in the mirror, thinks she recognizes a friend only to realize that she is looking at her own reflection: “Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend” (55). She has this source of strength within herself and she is slowly coming to recognize this.
The comments about American’s inability to enjoy pleasure struck me as well. I have often heard that, for example, Americans live to work and Europeans work to live, but this concept of the beauty of doing nothing is thought provoking in itself. The view that Americans are work-obsessed, repressed individuals may be true to an extent; but more important is one's reaction to this claim. Will you conform to it? The graffiti incident between a married couple consisting of an American wife and an Italian husband reflects something Liz herself is breaking free from. Giulio’s suggestion for why Maria did not write the curses in English is very interesting. And if Americans have a repressed nature or an inherent guilt, this is what Liz is seemingly attempting to overcome. Liz, through her experiences in Italy, is realizing that she is deserving of happiness and need not feel guilty.
The conversation Liz shares with her mother indicates this same repression. She is shocked to hear that her mother too wants, or once wanted something else for herself. Liz is a heroic character because she is allowing herself to be transformed. It is done intentionally in order to seek out her happiness. She deserves it, and pursues it fully. Her struggle along the way, and the grinding emotions she grapples with only offer proof of this difficult transition. But the question will be, is it worth it? I think her struggle and courage will prove to be life changing for Liz. She will be happier for having followed her raw feelings rather than suppressing them. She listened to herself and decided to act despite the fear.