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).