Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books.
Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from
one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be
adding many of these books to your wish list.
I love immigrant stories, probably because I grew up hearing my grandfather's real-life stories of his own immigration to the United States. That's what first attracted me to Christopher Castellani's All This Talk of Love, but the vivid characters and multilayered plot are what held my attention.
Here is the publisher's summary:
It’s been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers—everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out.I want to start by saying that I was well into All This Talk of Love before I realized it was the third in a group (not a series or a trilogy in the normal use of those words) of novels about the Grasso family. I want to reassure readers that I never once felt lost; this book works well as a standalone story. At the same time, though, I am now eager to read the first two books and hope to revisit the Grasso family soon.
But Prima was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy—hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their trip home becomes a necessary journey.
All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.
As in any family, each Grasso has an opinion of the others and each has a distinct personality. Prima, the daughter, did what was expected of her: married a successful man, had four sons, and stayed near her parents. Frankie, a replacement child for the brother he never knew, is the opposite. He may talk to his mother every night at precisely 11:01, but he has no intention of returning to Delaware after he finishes graduate school. Never mind that he hasn't yet informed his mom of this.
Then there are Maddalena and Antonio, who struggled to make something of themselves in the United States. Antonio may have embraced many of the stereotypes (he owns a restaurant that serves Italian food, for example), but his wife is as far from a Italian grandma as you can get. She's still beautiful, stylish, and thin in her seventies, and she doesn't cook.
When Prima surprises her family with nonrefundable tickets to her parents' birthplace, she knows it'll likely be a hard sell, but she's unaware that she may have opened up doors that had been purposely and firmly closed.
All This Talk of Love is a story of love, family, loss, aging, and facing the past. Christopher Castellani's characters are so realistic that it's sometimes difficult to remember that you're reading a novel. Not that every incident is one that could have happened to your own family, but the Grassos are believable as people.
Antonio worries about the fate of his restaurant, Prima worries about how well her mother is going to age, and Frankie is living under the shadow of a brother who died in his teens. All these issues, past and present affect each person and in different ways. For example, Maddalena wonders:
If [she] had stayed in the village, chosen Vito Leone over Antonio Grasso, she'd have had all she has here [in the United States]: a house and children, a car to drive to the dance studio, a family business of some kind, and flower beds to keep up. . . . What would have been the difference between that life and this one? She's been a seamstress, a wife, a mother, and an old woman terrified of the years ahead—no more special than any of her sisters, after all, just thousands of miles away and six hours behind. (pp. 248–249)Is she right? Would her life really have been the same if she had spent the last fifty years in Italy?
As the proposed trip looms large, family tragedies change the dynamics of the group: One is quick and one is slow, and each plays against earlier losses and sorrows to reshape a family already feeling the loosening of its traditional bonds.
All This Talk of Love is recommended to readers who like family stories and realistic characters. In addition, Christopher Castellani brings up some points to ponder, such as the quote I just shared. Because of this, the novel would make an excellent book club selection. Readers will likely differ in their reactions to the later part of the book and perhaps to some of Frankie's choices. If those topics don't generate enough discussion, Algonquin provides ten thoughtful questions to jump-start your meeting.
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011. Don't forget to follow Algonquin on Twitter and Facebook and read their blog (where you can sign up for the Algonquin newsletter).
Buy All This Talk of Love at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).