Kitschy, quaintly amusing Italian-American saga from Trigiani (Lucia, Lucia, 2003, etc.).
The endearing narrator is Batholomeo di Crespi, known as “B,” a bachelor decorator in the upscale New Jersey town of Our Lady of Fatima (or OLOF), circa 1970. His exquisite taste in fabrics and décor have made B well respected in OLOF; he’s decorated all the important houses, from his divorced older sister’s Georgian manor to Aurelia Mandelbaum’s mansion. Aurelia’s myopic daughter Capri, still living at home at age 40, has been B’s unofficial fiancée for 20 years, but this was their mothers’ idea, not theirs. B avoids the messiness of romantic relationships, preferring to spend his time making the world elegant: “The rococo period where French design and Italian flair came together make my heart leap for joy.” At the moment, he’s got his eye trained nostalgically on the restoration of the town’s Catholic church. Once he wrests the commission away from a fancy New York firm, B is faced with the scary task of having to turn his vision into reality. Conveniently, he meets a fancy Park Avenue architect and historian, Eydie Von Gunne, who specializes in churches and can recommend expert craftsmen. But first, B soothes his artistic crisis with a trip to England, where he buys Monica Vitti’s chandelier, and then to Italy with Capri, who decides to live a little in spite of him. B embarks on the church restoration with the help of Brooklyn’s noted fresco painter Rufus McSherry, who urges him to be daring rather than conventional. Resourceful B even saves the day by raising the last-minute money for the church’s final stage. Trigiani’s story manages to transcend its fluffiness by virtue of her unique and winning protagonist, the determinedly single B, who loves his family but resists the pressure to make one of his own.
Reams of furnishings detail and messy family histrionics.