“I will say one thing. You said it to me once years ago, now it’s my turn: I envy the two of you. Please don’t ruin it”.
– André Aciman, Find Me
Find Me is not your normal sequel. It does not carry on one single narrative thread, started in Call Me By Your Name, instead it ties together multiple threads from the same fabric that Call Me By Your Name is a part of. (I am assuming here that you have read Call Me By Your Name, or at least seen the film, for without this you will not understand Find Me, nor this review of it). For the first hundred pages, Elio is scarcely mentioned, Oliver not at all; yet without a doubt, Find Me is heavily predicated on the events of Call Me By Your Name. As such, one waiting to know what happened in the immediate aftermath of the previous book will be sorely disappointed, however if they give the novel the time it needs, they will come to understand the importance of time, and what has happened as time has progressed for Elio, Oliver and Elio’s father Samuel.
The novel is split into three main parts, each named after a musical term that can be seen as a description of the section, these sections are followed by a brief coda in which the reader finally gets to see Elio and Oliver interacting with each other again. Each of these sections take place some time after the events of the previous one, giving the novel a chronological flow that binds together the dislocated narratives. The importance of music drifts throughout the book as if there are still the dying echoes of Call Me By Your Name’s melody, or perhaps this tune is their past love still resounding in their hearts. Each of the main sections has a continuous narrator, and so the reader is given a sustained view of each character who narrates their own story. In a way, one could take the dedication of the book to Aciman’s three sons as a dedication to Samuel, Elio and Oliver.
In many ways, I feel that Find Me is more of a sequel to the film of Call Me By Your Name than to the original book. The film ends far earlier in the chronology than the book, and so Find Me almost feels like it is retconning the previous novel, as much of the novel’s chronology can be slotted into gaps in that of Call Me By Your Name and it is only at the very end that Aciman moves into truly novel ground.
Yet, both books are patently linked, and work together to give a full examination of love. Call Me By Your Name acts as an exploration of growing up, and beginning to understand love, whereas Find Me is most certainly an exploration of growing old, and how love still must play its part. Other critics have condemned the book for its rather philosophic approach to love, and I must agree that the characters do not always seem believable. However, Aciman’s style makes this irrelevant. Find Me is successful, in part, because its characters are closer to philosophical exempla than quotidian reality. This permits the reader to fully suspend their disbelief and consider love with the pragmatic issues that so frequently hinder it put aside.
This exploration of love is intrinsically bound to the passing of time. Oliver, in contemplating what could have been, invokes his love to Elio: “Find me, he says I will, Oliver, I will, I say. Or has he forgotten?” And in this moment, by calling Elio by his name, Oliver goes back to his love of Elio that first summer as detailed in Call Me By Your Name. Yet, in all the remembrance of love, the spectre of forgetting cannot be ignored. Their love can never be what it once was. They have aged. Time has passed and so they must understand that while love might endure, time cannot be altogether disregarded. In this way, Aciman has produced a sequel that neatly balances the youthful vigour of Call Me By Your Name and does not seem derivative, even as Find Me slots into the narrative gaps of Call Me By Your Name.
“The lure of bygone days had never left him, that he had forgotten nothing and didn’t want to forget, and that even if he couldn’t write or call to see whether I too had forgotten nothing, still, he knew that though neither of us sought out the other it was only because we had never really parted and that, regardless of where we were, who we were with, and what ever stood in our way, all he needed when the time was right was simply to come and find me.”
– André Aciman, Find Me
– Ed Bedford