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Sweet Figs, Bitter Greens by Donna L. Gestri

Sweet Figs, Bitter Greens

by Donna L. Gestri

Pub Date: April 10th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1480278080
Publisher: CreateSpace

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.