Friday, September 24, 2010

Learning through Art: HIV/AIDS through Books--Acqua Calda, by Keith McDermott

At first I was hesitant to read and even more to write a review of Acqua Calda. I'm not quite sure the reason. Yet, the read was rewarding. Here's my review published in A&U Magazine, some time ago.

Thanks for reading,

Acqua Calda
By Keith McDermott
Reviewed by Alina Oswald

Do you believe in second chances?  Well... if you don't, you will after reading Acqua Calda; if you do, you'll learn to appreciate life's offerings even more.
The healing effects of Acqua Calda (Italian for "pleasantly hot water") extend beyond its characters and story to touch readers' lives and offer them a fresh opportunity to reflect upon their own existence and inevitable mortality.  Set in the mid-nineties-at a time when protease inhibitors were the new hope for AIDS patients-Acqua Calda offers its protagonist, Gerald-an aging, jobless, dying of AIDS actor-new hope through a journey that takes him across countries and continents, from the crowded Times Square and Gerald's lonely existence in which death is the only sure thing, to the remote Italian location, alive with the young group of actors.  Along the way, Gerald rediscovers his passion for acting, the possibility of new love and the strength to hope again in a future no matter how uncertain.      
Although it brings into the spotlight our own mortality, Acqua Calda interweaves the reality of living with AIDS and the adventures of theatre life, offering not only a close-up on one aspect of the pandemic but also an informative read for novice and aspiring actors.  As readers, we allow the story and its characters to introduce us to the world of theatre and provide us with a detailed image of the behind-the-curtain life. 
Keith McDermott's debut novel draws several parallels that help us reevaluate and improve our own existence: the therapeutic effects of "acqua calda" symbolize the effects of the new medications on AIDS patients, while Gerald's journey can identify with each of our real life expeditions in search for our own moment of sublime, of "ecstasy."
As readers, we follow in the characters' steps and experience the therapeutic effects of Acqua Calda.  We have a unique chance to learn from its protagonist's experience and better appreciate life's second chances.

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