Martina Satriano, an Italian professor of cultural history at New York University, observes the great American city with admiration and gratitude, but from an outsider’s perspective. She is a sublime cook, she loves her job, she has occasional erotic adventures, but Martina is a lonely woman whose real passion is a “machine” that she has built to assist in her cultural research and which she uses to record her dreams. These recordings, infused with the memories of her childhood and early career, begin to reveal a tangle of second guesses and insecurities about the path she has chosen.
Then, when she returns briefly to Italy to attend her mother’s funeral, Martina discovers that she may have been born left-handed but was trained to be right-handed. Back in New York, struggling with this new revelation, this possible suppression of an identity, she meets a high-culture Italian official who tempts her to return to Italy with a prestigious job offer. While weighing her options, she quite unexpectedly meets up again with her first great love, a man she has not seen in more than twenty years.
Just as in Duranti’s internationally acclaimed best-selling The House on Moon Lake, the question of destiny is at the heart of Left-Handed Dreams. Can Martina resist the urge to treat life as a puzzle that she can somehow deconstruct and solve? Indeed, by the end of this taut and resonant novel, this expatriate must learn the essence of “naturalezza,” an Italian word that means “a way of being, of feeling without always being aware of one’s being.” Her story, infused with all the luscious food she prepares and enjoys with the men who come into her life, makes this a delectable, provocative read.