April 8, 2013
Pass the cannoli...Please!
You know if Italian food wasn't already one of my favorite cuisines, it would be after reading this story. Who knew you could put strawberry leaves in salad. The use of ethnic food is just one of the things that lends to the feel of family in The Witch of Little Italy.
The Witch of Little Italy is Suzanne Palmieri's debut novel and I believe it's one you won't want to miss. Even though I don't like to make comparisons, this book reminded me a little of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic. However, it is a strong book all on its own.
When I first opened this book, I thought I might have trouble keeping track of all the characters. There's Elly (our main character, sort of). Elly is pregnant, unwed and escaping from an abusive relationship with Cooper. Elly is also insecure and doesn't have a memory of large portions of her childhood. Regardless of those missing moments, she knows she must return to the family complex. Waiting there for her are her grandmother, Mimi; Mimi's sisters Fee (who can't hear,) and Itsy (who doesn't talk); and Anthony, who has loved Elly forever. Not at the complex but making her presence known is Carmen, Elly's distant mother. And then there are the people from the past - Margaret (Mimi's mother), Bunnie and George (Mimi's siblings)...and more. So you see, there were a lot of people to keep track of. But the author created such strong characters that I became captivated by all their stories and how those stories were woven together to make a lovely tapestry of family.
One of the many things I liked about this story was its structure. We have a couple of first-person narratives and those views shift back and forth between time, telling us an intricate story of the Amore family, mainly the women in that family. Now, before all of you grumpy flashback-haters start complaining, relax - the author has created an almost seamless tale of following your destiny and changing your destiny.
I also loved the many-faceted characters and the family secrets that Elly must discover to make the Amore family whole again. And, even if you figure out the many secrets before Elly does, I promise you're going to be rooting for her all the way. I had one quibble, I would have liked to have found out more about Margaret's Irish family, the Green's. There seemed to be a lot of mystery there which for me wasn't resolved.
This is a truly magical story, on so many levels, so if you like stories with a little witchiness thrown in, this story is for you. It's a remarkably gentle story that I will remember for a long time. The Witch of Little Italy made me a happy camper.
Time/Place: Different Contemporary times/United States