Ernest Vogler is a young, overlooked artist working for the Third Reich’s Sonderprojekt when he is sent to Rome to oversee the purchase and transport of the marble statue The Discus Thrower. He finds everything already arranged by an associate in Rome: the statue is packed, escorts hired, and a route plotted through the back roads of Italy up towards Munich. Vogler has three days to get the statue to the border; the Führer is waiting. It should be a simple journey, a chance for Vogler to earn back the self-confidence taken by his abusive father years ago.
But, like life, no journey is as straightforward as that. The twins hired to escort Vogler and the statue have agendas of their own – some personal, some political – and take the truck on a series of unexpected detours through Tuscany and the northern Piedmont. Vogler protests, but the twins encourage him to see it as a chance to tour Italy. Each detour shows him more than just the landscape; veering from his carefully planned route (and carefully planned life), Vogler discovers much about friendship, love, and the kind of person he wishes to be.
Romano-Lax has taken a snippet from history, Hitler’s controversial pre-war acquisition of The Discus Thrower, and cast it in a classic road trip story, where the journey is more about self-discovery than maps and routes. Vogler is a beautifully layered character – misunderstood, doubting, secretive, precise – rivaled only by the colorful Digiloramo twins, who keep a thread of dark humor running throughout. Romano-Lax paints a glorious landscape of northern Italy, with sunsets and winding vineyards that pull the reader in as much as the characters. Thoroughly recommended.