A complex story about where ambitions and love meet.

READ REVIEW

Tutta La Famigla

AN ITALIAN AMERICAN FAMILY

A romance between a peasant farmer and the landowner’s daughter takes some unexpected turns in this tragedy that examines the conditions of tenant farmers on Italian wine-growing estates around the turn of the 20th century.

Using family stories, Gaglio makes use of Spartan prose to construct this cautionary tale for prospective Juliets. In this case, though, Giulietta Anna Busa’s Romeo—Giovanni Battista Ambrogliano—is more of a conniving Lothario. From birth, Giovanni was different from his family and other tenant farmers on the Busa estate. Smarter, with more ambition, he asks the questions no peasant should: “Why don’t landowners work in the fields?” “Why don’t we have meat every day?” “Why can’t we live in a big house?” His parents are frightened, however, when he announces plans to impregnate the Busas’ daughter and marry into the padrone’s family; in fact, Giovanni’s father and uncles attempt to beat the crazy idea out of him. But the beating only steels his resolve, and he secretly proceeds with his plan anyway. Handsome, charming and intelligent, Giovanni works hard to become a foreman, thus positioning himself in the vicinity of the house and crossing paths with Giulietta, finally seducing the inexperienced girl. When Giulietta becomes pregnant, however, things don’t go quite the way Giovanni expected. Her father banishes his entire family, hires thugs to kill him and makes arrangements for Giulietta to enter a convent. Eventually, with the aid of Giulietta’s mother, things cool down, and Giulietta and Giovanni become successful in Milan. Driven by his dream of being a wealthy landowner, Giovanni convinces Giulietta to leave Italy and take the family to America, where more troubles await. Gaglio’s spare writing is deceptively simple, as it conveys not only the main storyline and a great deal of background, but also the emotional and psychological states of various characters. In this multifaceted tale of love, deception and ambition, the motivations behind those well-developed characters help create a first-rate read.

A complex story about where ambitions and love meet.

Pub Date: April 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482015638

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

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A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE

After facing tragedy and betrayal in New York, an aspiring fashion designer escapes to her idyllic Pacific coast hometown to raise her best friend’s two young children and finds inspiration, redemption, and love in the unexpected journey.

Caroline Shelby always dreamed of leaving tiny Oysterville, Washington, and becoming a couturier. After years of toil, she finally has a big break only to discover a famous designer has stolen her launch line. When she accuses him, he blackballs her, so she’s already struggling when her best friend, Angelique, a renowned model from Haiti whose work visa has expired, shows up on her doorstep with her two biracial children, running from an abusive partner she won’t identify. When Angelique dies of a drug overdose, Caroline takes custody of the kids and flees back to her hometown. She reconnects with her sprawling family and with Will and Sierra Jensen, who were once her best friends, though their relationships have grown more complicated since Will and Sierra married. Caroline feels guilty that she didn’t realize Angelique was abused and tries to make a difference when she discovers that people she knows in Oysterville are also victims of domestic violence. She creates a support group that becomes a welcome source of professional assistance when some designs she works on for the kids garner local interest that grows regional, then national. Meanwhile, restless Sierra pursues her own dreams, leading to Will and Caroline’s exploring some unresolved feelings. Wiggs’ latest is part revenge fantasy and part romantic fairy tale, and while some details feel too smooth—how fortunate that every person in the circle has some helpful occupation that benefits Caroline's business—Caroline has a challenging road, and she rises to it with compassion and resilience. Timelines alternating among the present and past, both recent and long ago, add tension and depth to a complex narrative that touches on the abuse of power toward women and the extra-high stakes when the women involved are undocumented. Finally, Wiggs writes about the children’s race and immigration status with a soft touch that feels natural and easygoing but that might seem unrealistic to some readers.

A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242558-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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