Tuesday, February 12, 2013

All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani

It's been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she would see her parents, her sisters and brothers--everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. She locked those memories away, as if Santa Cecilia stopped existing the day she left. Now, with children and grandchildren, a successful family-run restaurant, and enough daily drama at home, Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out.

But Prima, Antonio and Maddalena's American-born daughter, 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 journey home becomes a necessary voyage.

Writing with warmth and grace, Christopher Castellani delivers a seductive feast for readers. All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.

All This Talk of Love is a poignant novel about an Italian-American family and their family dynamics. At the heart of the story is Maddalena, the matriarch, a woman with an abiding love for her adult children, Frankie and Prima.  

Maddalena speaks with Frankie every night on the phone, at the end of which they tell each other, “I love you.” It is this that the title is based upon. Each character faces adversity in their lives. Antonio and Maddalena still grieve the death of their 15 year old son. Maddalena is losing her memory. Frankie struggles in a Boston university. Prima is an overprotective mother who guards her children and even spies on their friends.

When Prima decides to surprise her family with a trip back to Italy, Maddalena is unhappy and refuses to go, afraid to face the secrets she left there before she immigrated to America.

The author tantalizes the reader by revealing secrets gradually throughout the novel, enriching the story with details that shed light on character motivation. More importantly, he manages to relay the strong sense of family prevalent in the Italian culture. Through Maddalena he captures the feelings of many immigrants who gladly left the old country, happy to leave bad memories behind, or like Antonio who longs to return to his roots and all that was once familiar, or like Prima, who is American born but whose roots and passion are firmly implanted in the homeland of her ancestors. As a first generation Italian-Canadian, these feelings and experiences exist in my own family, and those of my friends and relatives.

I read this novel without having read the previous two books in the series, but had no trouble understanding the story.

All This Talk of Love is a family saga of love and loss and buried secrets. It rings with authenticity of the Italian culture and our integration into America. It leaves readers with much to ponder about the human spirit and family dynamics. An excellent novel.

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