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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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.