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In this heartfelt if uneven portrayal of a widow's wartime struggles, Cooney captures the chaos visited upon the Italian countryside during WWII. Lucia Fantini, renowned for her operatic performances in the family restaurant, finds herself on a mission to find her son, Beppi, who went into hiding after blowing up a German tank. In her travels, she crosses paths with an American woman, a former golf champion who is part of army intelligence; distant neighbors whose homes have been bombed; and people who have been involved with the restaurant. Cooney takes great pains to capture the individual idiosyncrasies of the characters, but the many competing personalities dilute Lucia's story. Flashbacks appear frequently, and though some are illuminating, the combination of recollections, the present story and Lucia's occasional delusions (one minute, bombs are falling, the next, Lucia is having a conversation with Verdi and Puccini over who is the greater musician) lacks balance. Still, Cooney (A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies) accomplishes her task of portraying, on a very personal level, the moxie and individuality of the Italian villagers as they face the challenges of war. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.