My Imaginary Friend, Signora

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is a people-watching introvert’s paradise. All of the intimate intricacies of a revealing observation are laid out effortlessly on the page. This book is a gallery full of strange faces waiting to be explored; reading Whereabouts is the ultimate park bench experience!

The protagonist and narrator of this book, a woman only identified as “Signora,” writes a series of reflections on her life and perspective as a middle-aged, single woman in an unnamed Italian town. Signora shares contemplative commentary through her eager inquiries into the lives of those with whom she crosses paths, as well as through her ready divulgence of the inner workings of her own mind. Her descriptions of the  mundane locales that make up her life’s journey – the piazza, various coffee bars, the grocery store – elicit a sort of ethereal whimsy, imagery blurring the line between reality and fantasy in a manner I can only liken to the palpable company of an imaginary friend. 

Signora is disarmingly honest about her thoughts and feelings. In moments of lust, anger, and melancholy, her authenticity is unfailing. Signora’s intensely personal accounts, sprinkled with quaint Italian anecdotes, create a sense of timelessness for the reader – a feeling experienced in solidarity with Signora as she herself tends to lose track of time. Her narration is so engrossing that I found myself bewildered when I was pulled back to reality by references to modern technology. 

Whereabouts is the type of book that takes you on a journey, a book in which you can truly get lost in the story. This book resembles an intense conversation with a stranger on a long train ride: Upon arriving at your destination, you know you most probably will never see this person again, but you’re left with a forever connection. If you’re longing for the sentiment of a pensive stroll, Whereabouts will quench that thirst.



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