The author of Mother Rocket (1993), winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award, disappoints in this debut Love Storylike novel of a poor New Haven girl who marries a rich Yale boy only to lose him to a fatal illness. Rosa Salvatore would love to disown her blue-collar roots in New Haven's Pizza Beach, an Italian-American enclave of colorful gossips, priests, housewives, and storytellers, but Rosa's own looks, manner, and firmly implanted neuroses loudly proclaim where she came from and what she's likely to become. Now grown up and a social worker at Yale New Haven Hospital, Rosa dreams of a more mainstream future, but like her mother she expects it to arrive in the form of the right non-Italian man. Mr. Right duly appears in the guise of Gary Fisher, a wealthy Jewish law student from Long Island whose irrepressible motormouth and vaguely suspicious relationship with his domineering mother piques Rosa's interest. Having met over an indigent patient's case at the hospital, Rosa and Gary fall in love on the strength of shared physical ailments (he has allergies, she has a spastic colon), and a shared longing to turn their backs on their parents and start anew. Despite the obvious difficulties of melding his liberal, nonreligious family with her conservative, Catholic clan, the couple marry--only to find that the state of matrimony has destroyed their sexual passion and left them with nothing to talk about. The doldrums are interrupted when Rosa suffers a miscarriage and disappear altogether when Gary learns he has terminal cancer. The final scenes, in which Rosa sits by Gary's hospital bed wondering how she'll live without this obnoxious guy, are the most affecting, but they come too late to excite enough sympathy or interest. Ciresi's irreverent sense of humor and sharp eye for ethnic detail raise this story above Love Story's schmaltz, but her bland, unreflective characters just don't capture the reader's heart.