If You Eat, You Never Die: Chicago Tales

Overview

In a neighborhood on Chicago's outskirts, Fabio and Lucia Comingo have built a new American life—and struggle to comprehend the influences that distract and change their restless young sons. Through this masterful evocation of a time and place, Tony Romano, the acclaimed author of When the World Was Young, brings a first-generation Italian American family vividly and poignantly alive in closely related tales at once joyous, heartbreaking, and honest. Weaving two dozen stories into a stunning, cohesive family ...

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If You Eat, You Never Die

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Overview

In a neighborhood on Chicago's outskirts, Fabio and Lucia Comingo have built a new American life—and struggle to comprehend the influences that distract and change their restless young sons. Through this masterful evocation of a time and place, Tony Romano, the acclaimed author of When the World Was Young, brings a first-generation Italian American family vividly and poignantly alive in closely related tales at once joyous, heartbreaking, and honest. Weaving two dozen stories into a stunning, cohesive family history, Romano gives readers hope for togetherness amid the painful generational cycle of loss and redemption—as children grow and learn, and decide which treasures of cultural inheritance they will cherish.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this haunting collection of linked short stories, Romano (When the World Was Young) explores the Italian immigrant experience in Chicago. Primarily set in the 1950s, several stories are narrated by Michelino and Giacomo as boys. These stories expand to include tales told through the eyes of their mother, Lucia, and later their own wives and daughters. Romano also examines the family from the outside in, such as the story "No Balls," in which Giacomo's coach vents his frustration when Lucia forces her son to eat so much that he's overweight for his wrestling match. In "Comic Books," Giacomo learns a difficult lesson when he sees how his friend Angelo "earns" a motorbike from a local merchant. The overwhelming themes of love, loss, grief, struggle and isolation are expressed in unsentimental and sometimes even desperate prose. Dreams, and the failure to reach those dreams, choices, risks and settling (or not settling) permeate this moving collection of tales that will stay with the reader long after the book is shut. (Jan.)

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Library Journal

This short story collection tracing the lives of three generations of the immigrant Italian American Comingo/Cummings family by first-generation Italian American Romano (When the World Was Young) is startlingly sophisticated and engrossing. Fundamentally, each story is about identity, belonging, and growing up-a process that lasts well into old age. Youngest son Jimmy Cummings (born Giacomo Comingo), an outsider to both his family and his 1950s Chicago neighborhood, is the character around whom the book revolves. The stories are told from various points of view that rotate among family members and an omniscient narrator; each is a pearl by its own merit, but strung together they form a thoughtful, provocative family history that reveals each character's humanity in finer detail. Romano's spare, expert prose allows even tropes such as a food-pushing, helicopter Italian mother and infidelity to transcend stereotype and cliché. Romano deftly and sensitively guides readers through lives that are both pedestrian and profound. An impressive sophomore effort; recommended for public libraries.
—Megan Hodge

School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Romano offers an unsentimental series of vignettes about an Italian immigrant family adjusting to life in Chicago in the mid-20th century. Readers will be charmed by Mama's grit and evocative broken English, Papa's gentle passivity and tuneful whistling of Italian opera, Michael's longing for his heritage, and his brother Jimmy's drive to succeed. Both sons experience growing pains as they navigate school, sports, the neighborhood, first jobs, and the inevitable cultural and generational gap with their parents. Told from the point of view of each member of the family, the stories flow back and forth in time. Readers learn of the lives and romances of Mama and Papa in the old country, before their arranged marriage, as well as of the experiences of their sons as children, young married men, and fathers. Mama forged the way, coming to America first, changing the family name from Comingo to Cummings. As the boys grow, the inevitable conflicts arise and everyone relates a story of secrets, betrayals, and misunderstandings. The stories are humorous, heartbreaking, and uniquely American. Readers will find the Comingos engaging, and their experiences, while not unfamiliar, compelling.-Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060857943
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/23/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,277,930
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Romano is the author of When the World Was Young and a two-time winner of a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. His work has been produced on National Public Radio's Sound of Writing series and syndicated to newspapers nationwide.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2009

    Not a tasty morsel

    This book was an easy read but very disjointed and very boring. Romano kept jumping around and never developed any character fully. I did not love or hate any of the characters because I did not know enough about them to develop any attachment to them. It was like reading a bunch of short stories that did not have well defined conclusions. In the beginning Romano thanks the students in a creative writing class he took and the teacher of the class. I am staying clear of that university!

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