Olivia: Or The Weight of the Past

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The future is looking bright for Caroline Ferrante. She is a gifted chef and irreverent cooking teacher who has just been tapped for her own television cooking show. Her relationship with her upstairs neighbor Leon - a doctor, yet - is thriving. She even seems to get along with Leon's children from his first marriage. But Caroline's past seems determined to undermine her future. The rebellious daughter of Manhattan academics, Caroline dropped out of college and fled to Italy as the mother's helper of family ...
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Overview

The future is looking bright for Caroline Ferrante. She is a gifted chef and irreverent cooking teacher who has just been tapped for her own television cooking show. Her relationship with her upstairs neighbor Leon - a doctor, yet - is thriving. She even seems to get along with Leon's children from his first marriage. But Caroline's past seems determined to undermine her future. The rebellious daughter of Manhattan academics, Caroline dropped out of college and fled to Italy as the mother's helper of family friends. There she was able to pursue her great passion, cooking, while also embarking on an affair with Angelo Ferrante, a volatile Sicilian. In fairly short order she found herself pregnant, married, and a full-time chef at the ristorante where Angelo also worked. The business thrived, and Caroline and Angelo's baby, Olivia, was the light of their lives. Then things started to go sour. Angelo began to quarrel with the restaurant's owners. At home he became increasingly domineering and brazenly unfaithful. And he began to turn his daughter against her mother, using Caroline's Judaism (or rather, his anti-Semitism) as a weapon. Eventually, when Angelo's behavior gave Caroline no choice but to leave Italy, twelve-year-old Olivia chose to stay with her father, refusing even to write or speak to her mother on the phone. Now Angelo has married a woman Olivia hates even more than she remembers hating her mother, so she decides to join Caroline in New York. But Olivia has a great deal of unfinished business with her mother, and Caroline, who'd dreamed of a loving reunion, instead faces a hostile adolescent who misinterprets her every word and action, present as well as past. Indeed, overcoming Olivia's resentment - while navigating a burgeoning career, an intensifying romance, and the treacherous straits of raising a teenager - is as tough as any challenge Caroline has faced. In Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Judith Rossner laid bare the desperation of the 1970s singles

Life looks good for Caroline Ferrante, a charismatic, irreverant cooking teacher who has just landed her own TV show. But Caroline's past seems determined to undermine her future. The popular author of the epochal hits Looking for Mr. Goodbar and August returns with a New York story of mothers and daughters, food as metaphor, and--of course--love. LG Alternate.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Good news for Rossner ( Looking for Mr. Goodbar ) fans: after a lapse in His Little Women , she is back in top form in this bouillabaisse of a novel, the story of a woman who turns a passion for food into a career but in the process almost loses her daughter and her self-esteem. Narrator Caroline wryly describes her Manhattan youth in a family of academics to whom her interest in food is declasse; her disastrous marriage in Italy to flagrantly unfaithful Angelo Ferrante; the birth of their daughter Olivia; her term as chef of the Ferrantes' ristorante and her decision to divorce Angelo, who insists on retaining custody of Livvy. When events later bring Livvy to New York, where Cara supports herself by giving cooking classes, Livvy is a self-righteous teenager who hates her mother and calls her a ``kitchen monster.'' Manipulative, truculent Livvy is the quintessential rotten kid, so bad you want Cara to belt her one. Complicating Cara's life are her relationship with the doctor who lives in the upstairs apartment and a TV packager's yen to transform her cable TV show into a prime-time network star turn. When Livvy repeats her mother's mistakes, the narrative acquires complexity and momentum. Rossner takes some risks here in debating Jewish/Catholic attitudes toward abortion, but as both Cara and Livvy probe their uncertain ways to identity as mothers and as independent women, the novel ends on a satisfying, if realistically ambiguous, note. Anyone who likes to eat, cook or read about food will savor Rossner's descriptions of tasty dishes and culinary lore, conveyed with gusto and sensuous detail. Author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
She's got a terrific job, a terrific lover, and a terrific relationship with her lover's children, but Caroline Ferrante still has a problem: her daughter, Olivia, whose father has turned her against the mother who finally abandoned an intolerable marriage.
Alice Joyce
Rossner's latest novel is a satisfying meditation on the complex bonds between mother and daughter. Caroline finds success as a television chef in New York after her marriage fails. Daughter Olivia, Roman Catholic by virtue of her father, has been left behind in Rome. But Caroline's life goes into a tailspin when Olivia opts to join her mother in Manhattan, while seizing upon her perceived abandonment as reason for discord in their tenuous relationship. Rossner conjures up an impeccable pastiche, juxtaposing sensual elements related to good food with the vagaries of Caroline's love affair with Leon "and" the turbulent ordeals of life with a teenage offspring. A nuanced portrayal renders Olivia's painful passage from girlhood to maturity with a particular poignancy. Yet it is the shimmering impression of Caroline--and her confused sense of self within her own family of intellectuals, where culinary talent was never an acceptable substitute for academic pursuits--that ultimately triumphs in this subtle yet compelling portrait of a woman's journey toward personal fulfillment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517597200
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/26/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.24 (d)

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