“Time is always the price we pay for the unlived life.”
Andre Aciman’s Find Me (2019), the highly anticipated sequel to Call Me By Your Name, has much in common with its predecessor, with some significant differences. Its structure and themes are similar, though much time has passed between the first novel, which revolves entirely around Elio and Oliver, and this one, which begins with Elio’s father, Samuel. One of the most obvious similarities is in the book’s structure.
Like Call Me By Your Name, the sequel is divided into four parts, two of which are longer and two of which are very brief. Instead of each section focusing on a different stage of development in a single romance, though, these four parts deal with different characters and their diverse relationships. The first section, “Tempo,” is also the longest. It is told entirely from the perspective of Samuel, Elio’s father, who meets a beautiful, interesting younger woman on a train. The two strike up an unlikely romance filled with passion and devoted entirely to the philosophy of carpe diem. The second section, “Cadenza,” changes to Elio’s perspective. It is the second longest part of the novel and begins by merging Samuel and Elio’s plot-lines. Elio meets Miranda and sees in his father what his father once saw in Elio himself, the great love and friendship that Samuel told the boy, in Call Me By Your Name, he was so lucky to have found. We learn what has happened to Elio’s mother, though more will be revealed in the end section as well. Also in the second section, Elio meets an older man and begins a relationship with him; it is surprising to both of them, and somehow they also both know, and accept, that the relationship will be entirely real but very brief. Judaism rises as a major connecting theme again, as it was in the first novel.
In part three, “Capriccio,” the reader is taken to America and granted, for the first time in either of the two novels, Oliver’s perspective. We learn what has become of him and his family, what kind of person he is, and how dearly he misses Elio. He is equal parts regret and longing, regret for not having had the courage to stay with Elio originally, and longing to return to their place in Italy and create the life that he is sure was meant to be theirs. This is perhaps the most haunting of the three parts, and the one which most directly recalls the events of Call Me By Your Name, though from a different perspective. It also incorporates references to some of the “afterward” events that take place in part four of the original novel, weaving them into Oliver’s present. The passage of time is significant and heavily pondered.
Lastly, in “Da Capo,” the fourth and final section, Elio and Oliver meet again at last. They had seen each other only once before, about fifteen years after the events of that fateful 1980s summer in Italy. That meeting is recounted in the end of Call Me By Your Name. But after the passage of another half-decade, Oliver at last returns to Italy to find Elio; or, as Oliver so desperately calls out at the end of “Capriccio,” to allow Elio to find him. This section is just 10-pages long, but it deftly reminds the reader what Elio and Oliver’s relationship was like originally and convinces us that the two were indeed longing for each other, waiting for each other, all along. There’s more than a bit of irony in this ending, considering how adamant Elio is about not believing in the concept of soulmates.
Besides the structure of the narrative, Find Me also shares similar themes to the original. Predetermination, soulmates, and Judaism, as mentioned, but also the devotion to erotic realism. To call this work erotic is to invoke the original meaning of the word, which is a realistic, almost naturalistic portrayal of a love without limits. It does not mean that this book is “erotica” by contemporary standards, meaning essentially pornographic; instead, Aciman is still interested in recounting the ways that true lovers do love all of their partner, in every way, shape, and form. The breaking down of barriers to decorum, for example, or privacy. The explicit desire for another’s scent or touch, manifested in the most human and mundane ways, or the near-lustful devotion to a partner’s most basic needs. Part of what makes Call Me By Your Name so interesting is that love-in-naturalism, and it is rewarding to see that Aciman has not abandoned the concept, here, despite the fact that none of the new relationships, neither Samuel’s nor Elio’s, is quite as interesting as Elio and Oliver’s was (possibly in part due to the fact that they each receive one chapter in a four-section book, rather than the entire book.)
Ultimately, Find Me will likely be a rewarding read for those who were fans of the original because it reintroduces us to familiar characters, fills in some of the gaps both between parts three and four of the original, but also afterward, and because it shares many of the same important themes, such as erotic love, outsider/community (Judaism), music and art, etc. On its own, it is not quite as compelling or moving as the original, nor does it strike as deeply. Many may wish it had been more about Elio and Oliver, but in a way, the point of Elio and Oliver’s story was in the universal, and in this sense, Find Me achieves the same goal. Love is love, and we only get one chance at life, so seize the day.