A complex story about where ambitions and love meet.

Tutta La Famigla


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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it...

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Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.

Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lam—first occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errors—like going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctor—while utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.

Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-296367-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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