You know, when I look at you grown-ups, I think you’re trapped by things you don’t actually care about. How does that happen? When does it happen?
Three O’clock in the Morning begins with Italian born Antonio in 1983, struggling with epileptic episodes since he was a child. Comforted that his scary, strange fits were simply a thing that happens to some children, life went on with these odd moments occurring once a month or so until his teenage years when the epileptic bouts become more severe. Antonio feels his world shrink with a list of things he can and cannot do, places he should avoid, things he shouldn’t eat. Treatments are causing him to feel apathetic, as much as the changes forced on his young life, and it is why his divorced parents decide, together, that he must go to Marseille, France to see the best epilepsy specialist. With is parents beside him they take the trip together, and discover he will have to return in three years time to see what course his illness will take, as he ages. His life seems to level out so much that at eighteen he’d rather not even bother with the three year checkpoint. His parents are having none of it. More confounding is that it is his mostly absent father (a successful mathematician) who will be accompanying him this time, minus his mother who has an important conference to attend. This father, who he doesn’t really feel he knows, even resents for leaving his mother is the last person he wants to travel with back to that gritty, gray city. Antonio doesn’t even realize how hungry he is to bond with his father.
Upon Arrival, they are informed that Antonio appears to be doing good but only one test can really supply them with answers. The test requires he doesn’t sleep for two nights, inducing sleep deprivation to see if it will cause epilepsy. It is during this time that he and his father share intimacies getting to know each other for the first time, walking along the city streets, drinking in the scenery, the sea, the food, jazz music, the people, and his father’s favorite subject, mathematics. Normally that’s off putting to someone like me, whose math skills are abysmal at best, but Carofiglio’s musings are lovely. A harmony blooms between them and Antonio sees his father as so much more than he imagined him to be. Surprising details arise about his parent’s youthful relationship and marriage and his father’s reason for leaving. The story he imagined doesn’t line up at all with reality. As their connection grows his father imparts everything he has learned along way, including mistakes, and how his incredible mathematical gifts have changed with time. It’s just what Antonio, entering the rocky terrain of manhood, so desperately needs- this window into his father’s soul, that may help him understand himself. Sexuality, regrets, shame, what we do with our talents and love, it’s a beautiful father/son tale in a “modern bohemia” world. It is an easy pace, like a conversation with your best friend. A once in a lifetime meeting of the souls. Lovely.
Publication Date: March 16, 2021