Love overcomes the boundaries imposed by language and political borders in this debut romantic memoir.
Cloutier was raised in a traditional household near Naples, Italy. The children and her mother deferred to her father in all matters, with homemade meals served three times a day. When her mother died unexpectedly, as the oldest child there was no question that the author would manage the household. After returning from the hospital, her father coldly asserted: “Let’s go, Luisa…the kids are hungry.” She desperately hoped for more. Her brother’s girlfriend discovered that American Marines would attend a local dance and encouraged her to enjoy a rare night out. She met a handsome Marine named Brandon, who treated her with more respect than the patriarchal Italians: “God must have heard my prayers and sent me this American Marine.” Romance ensued despite the language barrier. Eventually, Brandon was sent back to the United States, and, months later, Cloutier followed him. They didn’t want to separate again so they married and the author obtained citizenship. But like many young couples struggling financially, they worked long hours and spent less time together. She became disenchanted: “We’re not married. You’re never here…I just can’t live like this.” After a brief separation, they reunited and rekindled their love. Tragically, one night Brandon went to take a shower and suddenly collapsed. An undiagnosed heart condition ended their fairy-tale romance after only a decade together. In her candid memoir, Cloutier recalls a love that was more intense than many lifetime liaisons. The strongest parts of the account deliver deft descriptions of the cherished traditions and outdated gender dynamics of Italy. But while the book is certainly unconventional in many respects, it doesn’t provide enough sparkling passages and unexpected reflections to make it stand out in the overcrowded romance and memoir fields. Although the work recounts the author’s painful and revelatory journey after her beloved husband’s death, the final chapter offers readers an abrupt ending. In addition, a bevy of mundane details slows the story’s momentum (“The next weekend, when Brandon came down from Twenty-nine Palms, I walked outside to the driveway to greet him. As I approached the car, I felt the heat from the motor after the two hour drive. Brandon opened the door and climbed out”).
An earnest account of a passionate marriage.