While the prose is simply beautiful, the unexpected story will disappoint fans looking for a direct follow-up to Call Me by Your Name.
André Aciman’s 2007 love-story Call Me by Your Name and its rapturously-received 2017 film adaptation are modern queer classics. Elio and Oliver’s Italian summer of love is stunningly rendered on the page and on the screen, making a follow-up a difficult proposition. So, right off the bat, Aciman must be applauded for even attempting Find Me, the new semi-sequel to his beloved novel. While the prose, as one would expect from Aciman, is simply beautiful, the unexpected story will disappoint fans looking for a direct follow-up.
Why? Because (spoiler alert) Oliver and Elio are only together for about 10 pages of the novel. Instead, it’s primarily concerned with Elio’s father, Samuel, and his relationship with Miranda, a young woman he meets on the train 10 years after the main action of Call Me by Your Name. Find Me is split into four sections, with Samuel and Miranda’s story, “Tempo,” taking up nearly half of the novel, despite being the weakest narrative. Though Samuel is still the same thoughtful, open-minded character Aciman introduced in Call Me by Your Name, his and Miranda’s love story never really catches fire.
The second section, “Cadenza,” puts us back in Elio’s head, and it’s immediately familiar and compelling. Tempestuous Elio was a marvelous narrator in Call Me by Your Name and Aciman has aged him beautifully here, retaining his fiery nature but balancing against the self-consciousness that comes with age. His story picks up 15 years after Call Me by Your Name’s romantic summer, when Elio falls in love with a lawyer named Michel. Though framed around a flimsy central mystery, Elio and Michel’s romance is sweet and old-fashioned, and this section feels the truest to its predecessor, as it concerns a brief but formative period in Elio’s life. Taken on its own merits, “Cadenza” works perfectly as a novella-length sequel to Call Me by Your Name, albeit one without Oliver in it.
Oliver doesn’t appear until “Capriccio,” which finds him trapped in a genial-but-passionless marriage and lusting after both men and women. This section is quite brief and originally served as the end of the novel, though the final, more satisfying fourth part was added prior to publication. Unlike Elio’s narrative, “Capriccio” feels less like a follow-up to Call Me by Your Name and instead a more cynical side-story. It’s only at the end, when Oliver allows himself to fully remember his love for Elio, that the story comes to life.
The brief closing chapter “Da Capo,” finally finds Elio and Oliver together, 20 years after meeting in Call Me by Your Name. These pages – though added late in the game – are the novel’s most genuine and compelling. Just like the best sections of the first novel, they are romantic, erotic and realistic in equal measure. It’s powerful to see these two lovers reunited after such highs and lows, yet we’re given such a tiny taste of it. Still, the strength of the characters and their chemistry is so strong that these 10 pages manage to carry the rest of the novel. All of the other actions are (or are nearly) justified by the reunion of one of gay literature (and cinema)’s most beloved couples.
Still, Find Me is infuriating. It refuses to give readers what they want until the last possible second, which is complicated by the fact that the novel is strongest when it gives readers what they want. But despite limping through its first half, the book does justice to its predecessor and offers its own melancholy spin on the love story. It’s not a perfect sequel (or a sequel at all, really), but it is still a lovely, complicated and queer read.