Audio Clip~Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

First few pages of Varina, read by Eva Kaminksy on Sound Cloud.

Huzzah! So happy and proud.

(Don’t be confused–the sample goes right into Berenstain Bears.)


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25% off Pre-Order!

Barns & Noble is doing a 25% off all pre-orders made between January 25 and 27. That’s hard copy, audio, and digital! Of course, Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story is included. Huzzah!

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Digital Excerpt: Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

Click on this link to read the first two chapters of Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story.

The release is in nineteen days. Nineteen. Eeep!


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Booklist (Starred Review!)

Booklist Review

Passions run high in the Palladino household. Seventy-year-old Varina’s millennial children, sons Dante and Davide and daughter Donatello, can go from zero to 60 squabbling over memories of idiotic pranks played as toddlers but will just as easily rally with mutual support when true trouble strikes. Varina’s 92-year-old mother, Sylvia, is an equal handful, frail one minute, feisty the next. Add the unending responsibility of running the popular Italian deli she started with her late husband, and Varina finds she is in serious need of a vacation. A chance encounter with a woman at the travel agency rewards Varina with both the traveling companion and best friend she has long been looking for. But with a large, messy family like Varina’s, something is bound to conspire to keep her from her trip, things like an internet-dating scheme cooked up by Sylvia and Donatello to activate Varina’s non-existent love life or Donatello’s increasingly complicated one. No region of the country has a lock on Italian culture, but DeFino’s zesty homage to the northern New Jersey microcosm delights with its universality and specificity. What was it Tolstoy said about families? Make that famiglias, and the Palladino clan more than qualifies.— Carol Haggas

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story
By Terry-Lynne DeFino.
Feb. 2023. 416p. Morrow, $27.99 (9780063228436); e-book (9780063228450).
REVIEW. First published January 1, 2023 (Booklist).


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Publisher’s Weekly Review

The Bogwitch, she is pleased.

DeFino (The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)) offers a bighearted story of a suburban New Jersey Italian family. Holding the family together, if barely, is 70-year-old Varina Palladino, widowed 14 years and running the family’s grocery store. Varina’s feisty 92-year-old mother, Sylvia, and her volatile 35-year-old daughter, Donatella, believe Varina needs a new guy in her life, and they concoct a plan to arrange a match. Meanwhile, Varina has plans to travel in Europe, Sylvia finds a possible love interest of her own, Donatella gets in trouble for violating a restraining order against her ex, and a gay family friend yearns for Donatella’s older brother. DeFino prefaces each chapter with colorful definitions of Italian American slang and hand gestures (“To counter the maloik [the evil eye], make the ma’cornoot (mana cornuto, in Italian) or, the ‘devil’ sign, by making a fist and leaving up index finger and pinky”). DeFino keeps the many plots spinning over the course of a year, with happy romances tempered by bittersweet changes in the characters’ lives and a mental health diagnosis for Donatella. Readers will be glad to immerse themselves in the Palladinos’ exuberant world. Agent: Janna Bonikowski, Knight Agency. (Feb.)DETAILSshare


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Library Journal Review

This is part of the lead in that makes an author’s heart pound! In a good way. Thankfully! Library Journal reviewed Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story.

DeFino, Terri-Lynne.

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story.

Morrow. Feb. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780063228436. $27.99. F

It’s been a few years since DeFino’s The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), but it was worth the wait for this story of a big, boisterous Italian family that offers a lesson in New Jersey–inflected Italian. The family includes a couple of sons, their wives, exes, and kids; Donatella’s best friend, a gay man abandoned by his Italian family and taken in by hers; and “Vicky,” the haunted record-playing Victrola. The family matriarch, Sylvia, is approaching her 93rd birthday and is worried about her widowed daughter, Varina. Together with her favorite grandchild, Donatella, the two cook up a scheme to attract single grandfathers looking for love as possible matches for Varina. Meanwhile, Varina books herself a secret cruise and finds a new best friend, her daughter gets a diagnosis that surprises no one, and a new baby is on the way. VERDICT There are a lot of laughs despite the mayhem and drama, and of course, many family dinners (with recipes!), but it is love that permeates and elevates this terrific Italian family saga. Adriana Trigiani fans will feel right at home here; a slightly more food-centric read-alike is Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly.

—Stacy Alesi


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It’s been too long

Wow. I’ve really let the dust collect on this thing. With Varina Paladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story releasing on Valentine’s Day, it’s probably time to at least say hi to this poor, neglected blog, so…”Hi!”

Frankie D and I just got back from an amazing (and short) trip up to Cooperstown, NY, where I was invited to visit with two book clubs that read The Bar Harbor Retirement Home For Famous Writers (And Their Muses). It was magical. I love chatting with readers, hearing their insights and ideas and all the bits and pieces they fill into the story. One of the gentlemen admitted (after his wife outed him) he cried at the end. It’s nice to bask in their appreciation of my work. It’s also pretty awesome to revisit this story I love so much. Four years! Four years since being published. Wow. Very cool.

Fun news, I’ve been officially invited to attend The Tuscon Festival of Books this March, as an author. I’ll have two panels, and two signings to do, but other than that–BOOKS! I’m very excited. I haven’t done a panel since the fantasy-writing days! I didn’t realize how much I missed doing this sort of thing. Since Frankie D and I have never been to Arizona, and because a dear friend now lives down that-aways, we’re going out early and spending a few days before the Festival.

On a more serious note: This blog started as a writing/book thing. Then it became the place I dumped so much of my sorrow, grief, anger, and love after Chris died. I won’t be deleting the past, but I do believe it’s time for this to be a writing/book blog again. The wheel turns, and with it, so do I. For a while, I needed my grief SEEN, exhibitionist (or sadist) that it was. Now, not so much. It’s actually gotten pretty exhausting to keep doing. Too exhausting.

Ok! That’s that. I’ll be here, posting fun stuff up as it comes along. There’s already been a lot! But there’s more to come. See you soon!


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The Day He Fell

My son, Christofer ran down the hall.

My son, Christofer had a great fall,

All the skilled surgeons,

Fine women and men,

Couldn’t put Chris back together again.

I woke with Humpty-dumpty running over and over in my head. Annoying. Strange. Then I got to my daily journal and saw the date–the day he fell. He was fifteen. We thought it was a simple “pop it back in” dislocation. No one had any clue it was the beginning of the final countdown. But it was. Five years of pain, loneliness, fear, and frustration that segued into five years of drugs, chaos, anxiety, more loneliness, and death.

There were good times. He wasn’t always sad, but I do think he was always lonely. He lived way too much inside his head.

I’m not going down this rabbit hole. Not now. Not today. My silly Humpty-dumpty verse wouldn’t stop turning over and around in my head, so I’m leaving it here.

Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.


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Blowing off the dust…again

On January 24, 2020, my youngest daughter texted me this pic. It’s a real flyer, done up by a real person somewhere in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve cut the email address from the pic, as well as the $10,000 “reward” for the perfect match to “protect the innocent.”

I thought it was fabulous, so I posted it up on Facebook. Rachel Kahan, my editor at WilliamMorrow for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) said, “Someone needs to write me this book.” So I did, only the Jersey Italian version.

At the time, I’d been working on another book–a fantasy–so this story got put on hold. It nevertheless percolated in the back of my brain, as stories so stubbornly will. I wrote notes periodically. It always started with Vicky, the haunted, antique Victrola. Sylvia, Varina, Donatella formed and reformed. Davide, Dante, Paulie. Them too. The whole, huge, smothering, loving family emerged, one by one by one, until I had something that looked like Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding had an illicit affair and produced the Palladino family.

I’ve written three other books in the four years since selling Bar Harbor…etc. So far, none of them were right for that all-important second book. I persevered. I kept writing. Books I love! I was given all kinds of advice about what I should do, but I knew what I wanted. The career I wanted. I was fully prepared for it to never happen! But it has, and now I am taking the next steps on that path.

Is Your Grandfather Single and Looking for Love? will be published by WilliamMorrow (HarperCollins) sometime in the winter/spring of 2023.

I’m excited to work with Rachel again, and with the whole WilliamMorrow team. The experience of publishing Bar Harbor…etc. with them has been the stuff of magic and dreams, and continues to be, three years after initial release.

It’s going to be a fabulous, fast year and a half-ish until the book releases. All the fun, behind the scenes stuff is to come. The anticipation is almost as good as the afterglow. Almost. I know this is a tough business, but–damn, I love it.


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Tissue Paper

Sometimes it slams into me before

I can brace, and so I can only

lean into it, let it

take me

tumble me

leave me breathless, heart pounding, out

of sorts, searching for words that

will bring breath

back to my lungs, shock my heart

back to rhythm, mend my soul of the

momentary tatters healed over again

and again.


A bone broken heals

harder. Stronger. A shredded soul isn’t as

durable, but it knows how to layer each tatter,

one over the other, creating a

tapestry bound by sorrow, and the

promise of joy.


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