Warm but clichéd family tales.

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Sweet Figs, Bitter Greens

A sprawling epic novel about an Italian-American family.

Gestri (Time Takes No Time, 2007) introduces readers to the Salvatori family, whose four children grow up under their demanding father Rinaldo, an Italian-born immigrant with a dark past who purchases an opera house at the outset of the book. Rinaldo is supported by his patient, loving wife, Giuliana, who keeps a steady stream of Italian food on the table and struggles to hold the family together. The story centers mostly on the family’s only daughter, Lucy, who grows to adulthood in mid-20th-century America. Lucy experiences many ups and downs: Catholic school; becoming friends with Jimmy, a little person; not being asked to prom; finding herself in the middle of a love triangle between charming movie star Tavis Gregg and her friend Valentino, who works at the Salvatoris’ opera house; and visiting Italy to finally put Rinaldo’s past to rest. The rest of the Salvatori children have their own adventures, including stints in Korea, career aspirations, marriages, and uncovering their own and the family’s secrets. The characters come to life, especially for readers who grew up in Italian-American communities at that time, and Gestri has clearly done her homework about Italy, American history and opera. While the characters could be anyone’s neighbors, they lack dramatic arcs. The prose is bare bones, with stilted dialogue, e.g., “Jeepers, Mister, that’s swell,” and scant description flattens the scenes. In addition, an abundance of nicknames and several unannounced jumps in chronology are confusing. Fans of Gestri’s previous books or of Italian family sagas may find something to enjoy here, but other readers may do better elsewhere.

Warm but clichéd family tales.

Pub Date: April 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480278080

Page Count: 696

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2013

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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