Friday Book Whimsy: Kiss Carlo

Novels by author Adriana Trigiani are always eagerly anticipated by this reader. I’ve been reading this prolific novelist’s works since the very beginning, with her Big Stone Gap novels. I loved the four Big Stone Gap novels because they had two things going for them  — they took place in Appalachia and they are about an Italian family.

I’m not Italian, but I think I was in a previous life.

Having said all of the above, I have been very disappointed in her last few novels. The Valentine series wore thin, with The Supreme Macaroni Company falling flat on its face. I found All of the Stars in Heaven to have an interesting premise, but was somewhat disappointed at the writing.

Still, as soon as Kiss Carlo was released, I read the book. With great gladness, I liked everything about it. Everything perhaps, except for the title, which never quite made sense to me. Nevertheless, I loved this book.

The story takes place following World War II, when south Philadelphia – along with the rest of the United States – was booming. The men were back from fighting, the GI bill and VA loans were making education and home ownership possible. Nicky Castone is sharing in the glory.

Nicky was left an orphan by the death of his mother and father when he was just a young boy. He was taken in and lovingly cared for by his aunt and uncle, who own a thriving cab/telegraph company in south Philly. Nicky drives one of the cabs, but secretly dreams of being an actor. He volunteers his time as a reader at a dying Shakespearean theater nearby. The theater is run by the beautiful and spirited Calla Borelli.

Nicky soon finds that these dreams are important enough that he moves away from the nest to New York City to become and actor in the early days of television. Will Nicky find his dream? Will the dream change him?

The novel is an amusing romp, and despite the fact that there are a lot of quotes from Shakespeare and some of the story lines parallel Shakespeare’s plays, the book is just plain fun. (Not that Shakespeare isn’t, mind you!) The dialogue is quick and clever and reminded of me of being around Italians during our visit to Europe in 2008. The conversations strike me as realistic and honest.

I recommend the novel.

Here is a link to the book.