Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Summary: From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativity—the story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia. -- Harper

Today is the day! KISS CARLO by Adriana Trigiani is officially available everywhere! And if you're a fan of Adriana's (like I am!) or even if you've never read one of her novels, you are going to want to head out to the store and purchase this book... like now! I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy (along with an adorable red lipstick thanks to Harper!), and I have to tell you -- it's a good one. A really good one! KISS CARLO is a book that will make you both laugh and cry (although I admit I laughed a heck of a lot more than I cried!), and it's an epic story about family, friendship and love that's the perfect summer read. Truly, this book has a little of something for everyone... even fans of William Shakespeare.

It's kind of hard to briefly summary KISS CARLO, but I'll try. The book description above does a much better job of it than I ever could. Or you could watch Adriana herself explain it here. There is a heck of a lot going on in KISS CARLO -- many different characters and side stories, but at its heart, it's a book about Nicky Castone. Nicky lives with his uncle and his family and works with them at their family owned cab business. At 30 years old, Nicky is engaged to be married but he's not entirely sure he likes the path he's on. The one thing that brings true happiness to Nicky is his (secret) job at the local Shakespeare theater company, and when he's asked one evening to fill in for an actor, Nicky is smitten with the acting bug!

To further complicate things, Nicky decides to make some changes to his life... changes that hurt some people close to him and make others furious. In an effort to flee his hometown of Philadelphia for some safety, he offers to deliver a telegram to the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania. And that's where Nicky's life really begins to change. I don't want to give too much away from here on out because, let me tell you, you are in for a wild and, often times, hilarious ride! The story moves from South Philly, to Roseto, PA, to Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to New York City; and you will fall in love with these characters -- characters like only Adriana Trigiani can create!

Okay, by now you probably can tell that I loved this book. A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to talk about KISS CARLO with the author herself over lunch. She told me that she thought this one might be her best book yet... and I might just agree with her (although it's hard to say because there are so many good ones!) What I will say for sure is that this cover is definitely my favorite! I love the roses, the dress, the font, etc. I will also tell you that I love that Adriana has returned to her writing roots. Of course, I've loved everything she's ever written, but I have to say that she's got mad skills when it comes to creating memorable characters. And I can't express enough how much the characters in this book made me laugh.

Adriana always, always, always writes about families; and it's even more apparent in KISS CARLO that she "gets" families -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think readers will definitely relate to the families in this novel whether it be a daughter's love and respect for her aging father or the two brothers who can't stop holding a grudge. And I promise you will laugh at some of the scenes in this book. There are a few in particular that come to mind, but the one where the Italian women are discussing wedding plans made me crack up.

One of my favorite parts of this novel has to do with Nicky and what he wore when he went to Roseto, PA. I don't want to spoil the book for you, but Nicky ends up borrowing a Penn State Blue Band costume from the theater. As a PSU crazy family, I told my 12 year old son that Adriana mentioned Penn State in her latest book. He was excited and said, "Did she do that just for you?" I looked right back at him with a huge smile and said, "Of course she did!"

Another aspect of the novel that stood out to me was how she wove Shakespeare and many of his comedies into the story. I'm far from a Shakespeare expert, but even I could appreciate how Adriana tied together the characters and stories in the novel with many of Shakespeare's stories. Using a struggling Shakespearean theater as one of the backdrops for the novel was just perfect too!

KISS CARLO would make an excellent book club selection. There are so many themes to discuss like family, adoption, love, grief, devotion, theater, art, honestly, staying true to one's self, destiny, desire, friendship, and (the big one) forgiveness. Check out the reading guide with eighteen questions! I am seriously contemplating picking this book the next time I host. Of course, I'd love to have Adriana Skype with us; and I'm already thinking about what Italian foods I could serve like cannolis, Italian cookies, and antipasto salad.

All in all, KISS CARLO is fantastic and exactly the book I wanted Adriana to write! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher and author for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I loved this book! I think it might be her best yet!

The Book Sage said...

If I'm ever going to read Trigiani, it looks like this would be the (a) one to read.

Test said...

I absolutely loved The Shoemaker's Wife so this one is high on my wish list! Your review only makes me want to read it more!

Karlie said...

I can't wait to read this! I just recommended it to a friend at the pool yesterday.