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Things That Happened Before the Earthquake: A Novel Hardcover – August 15, 2017

4.0 out of 5 stars 30 ratings

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"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Despite the distinctly 1990s setting, Barzini's dryly funny, sophisticated tale of angst and alienation will resonate with today's teens. Eugenia's parents relocate from Rome to the San Fernando Valley, where her father hopes to make it as a screenwriter. Absorbed by their own ambitions, Eugenia's parents leave her to fend for herself in a city still reeling from the 1992 riots. Finding it difficult to fit in (in part because of her limited knowledge of English), she resorts to casual sex to seek out companionship and power, choosing her male conquests carefully. But it is the beautiful Deva, from the isolated Topanga Canyon, who captures Eugenia's imagination and, eventually, her heart. Topanga Canyon is a magical, beguiling respite from the concrete wasteland where Eugenia lives, but the canyon is an insular community with a code of its own, and Eugenia is trespassing. Barzini's characterization of Eugenia is vivid and immediate, while the protagonist's parents offer welcome comic relief. VERDICT Though sex, drugs, and alcohol figure prominently, this novel brilliantly portrays the teen experience—perfect for those who love coming-of-age stories.—Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Review

"An Italian teenage girl shows up in 1990s Southern California in this culturally astute, strong-voiced novel. Barzini, truly a writer to watch, positions herself astride both American and Sicilian cultures, and packs this visceral book with strong sensations from both. The novel and its heroine, Eugenia, are deeply seductive."
New York Times

“Chiara Barzini writes with a voice that is both tense and open. The effect is surprising, subversive, and singular."
Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Interpreter of Maladies

"Chiara Barzini has pulled off that most dazzling balancing act: combining a deliciously entertaining plot with effortlessly elegant prose. She has an extraordinarily keen eye for cultural nuance. Through her alter-ego Eugenia we come to discover a California as wildly foreign to us as it is to her. A brilliant, sexy, and unexpected take on the immigrant bildungsroman.”
Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go
 
“Chiara Barzini has written a wild first novel, full of sex, violence, and desperate prayers to the Virgin Mary. This is a brutal and bizarre coming of age story aptly set in one of America’s many crises.”
Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody is Ever Missing

"Chiara Barzini has the heart and the capacity to tell a story that is bright on the surface and profound on the inside."
—Francesca Marciano, author of The Other Language

"Tectonic plates collide in this book: a girl lands on this continent with both feet planted in a pair of Reebok Pumps and the bared Italian bust and out-thrust tongue meet the buttoned-up American mind head-on. Our author shows us that there’s an America that’s bigger than the narrow confines this young Italian, our protagonist, confronts at her Los Angeles high school—and she discovers it in the body, in the spirit and in our land itself. Zany, rambunctious and deftly told, in this coming-of-age story the heroine is the earthquake." 
—Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life
 
"There are sex and drugs aplenty but also sweet, tender moments of first love and self-acceptance. Los Angeles is dirtily yet lovingly depicted… Barzini’s is an impressive debut with a distinct point of view.”
—Booklist

"If you're an Elena Ferrante fan, tuck into Things That Happened Before the Earthquake, a coming-of-age novel. Eugenia, a Roman teenager, is plucked from her home by her filmmaker parents; they head for Los Angeles and the lights of Hollywood, just weeks after the 1992 riots. As an expat myself, I can't wait to immerse myself in a raw, sensuous tale of two cities. Barzini is a filmmaker, so I know this book will take a cinematic view of the sexy, dirty business of becoming an adult."
- Estelle Tang, ELLE.com Culture Editor

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