Alessandro Baricco's short novel about revenge and redemption focuses on the story of Manuel Roca, who is hunted down and brutally murdered by a group of men who are carrying out a personal vendetta against him, angered by Roca's actions during a recent, bloody war. Roca's young son is killed, too, when he tries to come to his father's defense.
The only member of his family who is spared - Roca's young daughter, Nina - is hidden in a hole under the floor of family's farmhouse. Tito, one of Roca's killers, discovers Nina's hiding place but keeps her whereabouts a secret. Even though he was partly responsible for her father's death, he becomes her savior by keeping silent.
Many years later, Nina, now an old woman, meets an old man who is selling newspapers and lottery tickets. Recognizing him instantly, she uses him as a catalyst to come to terms with the childhood trauma that shaped her life.
Despite the briefness of this novel, Without Blood is a powerful, poetic story filled with moments of both darkness and beauty. In the first chapter, Barrico concentrates on Nina as she is curled into her hiding place, unsure of what is going on and unaware of the violence taking place outside. The second chapter, which follows Nina as she seeks revenge in her adult life, has a surprising but satisfying conclusion.
What is best about this novel is Baricco's beautiful prose, which waxes philosophical at times and highlights the tender and tragic moments that are a part of being human. Without Blood is definitely worth the short time it takes to read.