Book Review: Kiss Carlo

Kiss Carlo
Published By: Harper
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Page Count: 544
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Adult - Historical Fiction

I am a huge fan of Adriana Trigiani's work and while I adore spending time in Big Stone Gap, I prefer her historical fiction novels. I was excited to add this one to my reading list the moment I heard about it. You can always expect a character driven story with meticulous historical details, conflicts of the heart, and an Italian flare when you read a Trigiani novel. She never ceases to pull me into the time period she is writing about and I can visualize the characters as if they could walk off the page.

This novel is set in the late 40's after WWII has come to a close. The opening focuses on a small town in Italy that has faced numerous problems due to the war. This small Italian town will become intertwined with the town of Roseto in Pennsylvania as well as the life of Nicky Castone, the nephew of a working class Italian American family in Philadelphia that own a cab company. Nicky's parents died when he was young and as for long as he can remember his aunt and uncle have served as his parental figures. Nicky is an intriguing character who is struggling with finding his place in the world.

It was also interesting to see how various things such as socioeconomic status, race, and religion played out in this time period and neighborhood.

The beginning of the novel is a slow burn with a lot of background. It's important for understanding the setting and the character dynamics, but it can be overwhelming at times. I found that taking frequent breaks during the first half helped me stay motivated. I knew the second half pay off would be worth it and it so was.

Reading Kiss Carlo is like eating a strawberry napoleon - multilayered, complex, and immensely satisfying. I highly recommend this for fans of historical fiction or character driven novels. I am excited to reread this one when I have more time to linger over the prose and I am less stressed out by real life.

One Last Gripe: The beginning felt like a lot to wade through, but looking back, I know it was necessary to build the story.

Favorite Thing About This Book: Learning how all the pieces fit together

First Sentence: A cool breeze shook the old wind chimes on the balcony outside the ambassador's bedroom.

Favorite Character: Calla

Least Favorite Character: Dom Senior

Adriana Trigiani explores the vibrant, complex Italian-American experience in this dazzling novel that brings to life the golden years of post-war America—a celebration of ambition, risk, love, reinvention and one remarkable family with a secret, the Palazzinis

It’s 1949 in south Philadelphia. Diligent, hard-working and proud, the Palazzinis have built a solid life for themselves and their three sons. Now that World War II is over, their sons, each one a decorated veteran, have returned home to the family cab company, to rejoin their world as it was before they left. 

But their future and fortunes are forever changed by a telegram, and the nephew who delivers it. 

Nicky Castone has lived with the Palazzinis since he was orphaned as a boy. Doted on by his aunt, loved by his cousins and employed by his uncle, he, too, has returned, without a medal, to his room in the family’s basement and his job as a hack. 

While the boys were away, their father installed a Western Union Telegraph Office in the garage at the insistence of his wife, so she might be the first to hear of any news about her sons overseas. The telegrams are sent and received by the cab dispatcher Hortense Mooney, an African-American woman who has worked for the family for twernty years. In the early hours of an ordinary morning in 1949, the office receives a telegram bearing urgent news for the small Italian American village of Roseto, sixty miles northeast of the city. Hortense dispatches Nicky to make the long, pre-dawn drive to deliver the telegram.

When Nicky arrives in Roseto as the sun is rising, he has an epiphany—a revelation that will change the course of his life and the lives of the Palazzini family, Hortense Mooney, and the people of Roseto, including the despondent young widow Mamie Confalone, the beat cop Eddie Giaquinto, the town mayor Giorgio DeNegri, and his daughter Rosa. 

A captivating, multilayered novel about the power of family secrets, the triumph of true love over grief, and the courage to risk everything for the American dream, Italian style—Kiss Carlo is Adriana Trigiani at her inimitable best.


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