Daily Archives: March 29, 2023

Book Club Discussion Questions: Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

  1. Why do you think Terri-Lynne DeFino included the glossary of Jersey Italian slang in this family drama? Did you know any of the terms before you read this book? Which were your favorites? What did you think when you found out who’d been writing the entries all along?
  2. When we first meet Varina Palladino, she has been carefully saving for years to fulfill her dream of a European river cruise. Do you have a similar dream? What were you willing to sacrifice to fund it?
  3. Was it a good idea for Sylvia and Donatella to create the special is your grandfather single? ad to help Varina meet men? What are their secret—or not-so-secret—individual reasons for doing it? What are the unexpected consequences of setting the plan in motion?
  4. The big change in Varina’s social life turns out to be finding a new female friend instead of the boyfriend the ad was intended to catch. What is Ruth’s role in Varina’s life? Does platonic female friendship fulfill her in ways that a new boyfriend might not?
  5. Paulie observes that in his long friendship with the chronically volatile Donatella, “waiting for it to happen—whatever it happened to be—was almost worse than the actual, inevitable event.” Have you had the same experience with a friend or family member? How does the Palladino family cope with Donatella’s periods of instability?
  6. Sylvia tells Donatella: “Just stop all this….Think before you do these things. You can’t feel your way through this world. It just doesn’t work, believe you me.” Is she right? Who else in the book is feeling their way through the world?
  7. Once Sylvia has met John, her lonely life changes: “Sylvia was happy. Not just happy; blissfully so. Cliché as it was, there was no other words to describe the heady feeling of being loved, of belonging.” How does Sylvia’s very late-in-life romance change the dynamic of the Palladino family as well as her own life? Do you know anyone who has experienced a similar December-December love?
  8. Does what we learn about Sylvia’s past as a mother that cast her relationship with her children and grandchildren—especially Donatella—in a different light? How does that revelation affect our understanding of Sylvia’s choices?
  9. In the book’s final chapter, Vincent observes “If being a Palladino had taught him anything in his short life, it was that normal didn’t exist.” Do you agree? In what ways is the Palladino family normal or not normal?
  10. The title of this book is Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story, but the romances in the book don’t actually involve Varina. Why do you think Terri-Lynne DeFino chose that title? Discuss all the different kinds of love and love stories that are woven into this novel.
  11. Towards the end of the story, Paulie thinks, “the way ahead was going to be long and fraught, but it would be beautiful.” Do things turn out that way? What do you think happens to the characters in this book in the years after it ends?


Filed under Varina Palladino