Classic Italian-American fiction: characters and situations rendered with such skill and honesty, such depth of...



With her customary wit and pathos, Ciresi (Pink Slip, 1999, etc.) again mines the psyches of women in her first collection: 13 interrelated stories about two sisters growing up in the working-class Italian-American section of New Haven.

Angel and Lina share a room and a childhood, and like immigrant children everywhere, their lives revolve around the family and the neighborhood, their dreams around being, unlike their parents, American. Nine-year-old Angel is the voice, the storyteller, less glamorous than her older sister, more easily controlled, and inevitably, the one their morose and fatalistic mother relates to. She’s the child Mama takes to the butcher shop in “Big Heart,” where Mama haggles over the prices and the free bones for a family dog that doesn’t exist. The father, Babbo, drives a soda truck when he’s working; when he’s not, the sisters go to a public school where “the doors were removed from the bathroom stalls so the girls couldn’t shoot up or get raped.” In other pieces, each more heartfelt than the other, the Lupo sisters attempt to eschew all things Italian, using the English translation of their family name to call themselves “the Wolfs.” Meanwhile, they deal with eccentric relatives: the never-married Zio Gigi, who preys on the lovely Lina; Aunt Pat, “the rotten egg,” who left to live in Greenwich Village with “her lady friend.” Cheap souvenirs pass for decor, homilies pass for advice. “Don’t go looking for trouble,” Mama warns, or “Just remember, crazy girls turn into crazy women.” And how do the Lupo sisters turn out? Lina early on goes for music and boys, Angel retreats to the library. But they remain irreversibly connected, the roots of their upbringing deep, and while both get their piece of the American pie, Mama’s voice in the background is clear: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Classic Italian-American fiction: characters and situations rendered with such skill and honesty, such depth of understanding and feeling, that they are instantly and universally recognizable.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-33493-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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