Is there anyone who can write about the connections between ordinary people as well as Ann Hood does?
Glorious…Reading this novel was like taking a luscious train ride through the last century. …Full of surprise and wonder, the writing is at turns poetic and sensitive, then dynamic and wise. Ann Hood is a master craftsman. This resplendent novel is a grand crescendo in a pitch-perfect career.
Hood reinvents the family saga into something spellbindingly new and authentically alive…. Hood shows how love and history transform a family, fueland sometimes killtheir dreams, and connect them in ways they never might imagine. Sweeping, sensual, and downright astonishing.
Hood (The Obituary Writer) crafts a stark tale of loss and longing with story of one woman’s life in Italy and America. Wed at 15 to an ambitious landowner 11 years her senior, Josephine Rimaldi emigrates to Rhode Island. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she takes comfort in what’s most familiar: too many children, iron-clad tradition, and a demanding church. The only passion Josephine finds is an affair that ends with an infant daughter given up for adoption, a loss that haunts both her and her lover. With heartbreaking regularity, each succeeding generation yearns for a better life but surrenders to disappointment: Josephine’s son Carmine, whose stint in WWII leaves him shell-shocked and adrift; widowed granddaughter Francie, who’s shunned by suburban wives and wooed by their husbands; the granddaughter that Josephine never knew, love-starved Penny, whose relationship with her mother, Martha, falls victim to an obsessive search for Josephine; and dreamer great-granddaughter Aida, who runs away from her family to a vague, unsettled future. On her 100th birthday, Josephine does not embrace the children and life she nurtured, but the “things we did not have, the love that broke our hearts, the child we lost…” (Sept.)
I loved Ann Hood's An Italian Wife in the same way I loved Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridgeand for the same reason. The interconnected stories that fan out from a central characterin this case, matriarch Josephine Rimaldiilluminate important truths about the ways in which our families, our ancestry, and the era into which we're born shape who we become. An Italian Wife is a multi-generational masterpiece.
Best-selling author Hood (The Obituary Writer) has written a multigenerational saga of an Italian American family. Readers meet eight-year-old Josephine, living in a small village in early 1900s Italy with her family. At this young age, Josephine is betrothed and then one week before she turns 14 she weds Vincenzo Rinaldo, who a few days later emigrates to America. Nine years later, he is able to send for Josephine, who finds America an odd place, quite unlike her native village. The years pass; seven children are born to the Rimaldis, but Josephine, who continues to feel like a stranger in a strange land, also is unsure about marriage, uncertain of her husband, and still somewhat confused by American life. VERDICT With each chapter a coming-of-age tale of an individual family member, Hood offers a poignant view of the turbulent 20th century. She successfully displays the connected, ordinary lives of her characters, whom readers will come to love, appreciate, and enjoy. This intricately woven, engrossing narrative will delight Hood's readers and attract fans of literary family sagas. [See Prepub Alert, 3/17/14.]—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA
A century in the life of an extended Italian-American family. Hood's collection of linked stories begins in a small Italian village with Josephine, just 14. Suddenly married by family arrangement to pig-nosed, portly Vincenzo Rimaldi, she suffers a rude wedding night, but when Vincenzo leaves for America, she reverts back to childhood for nine more years, running barefoot in the Campanian hills—until her husband sends for her ("Salute"). Vincenzo works in a mill, and Josephine, a toil-worn housewife in an Italian Rhode Island neighborhood, bears seven children. The last of these is Valentina, the product of an all-too-brief interlude with a blond iceman. Telling Vincenzo the baby died in the hospital, Josephine gives Valentina up for adoption but never stops searching for her ("The Summer of Ice"). Sex and sexual mores are a major throughline. Josephine's son Carmine, shellshocked in World War I, finds peace only by masturbating to memories of a young Russian war widow he met in Coney Island ("Coney Island Dreams"). Lovely Josephine and her daughter Elisabetta, who wants to be a scientist, are preyed upon by the handsome parish priest, Father Leone, who partially atones by doing favors for the family, such as arranging the above adoption ("War Prayers"). Grandchild Francesca is both repelled and charmed when the community sends their meager riches to Mussolini. Her ticket out of Little Italy could be a blond boy in a fast car ("Dear Mussolini"). Later, we see her, a World War II widow, striving for social acceptance in a mostly Protestant subdivision, which, paradoxically, she achieves only by becoming the neighborhood homewrecker ("Husbands"). In the '70s, great-grandchild Aida longs to lead a Rat Pack lifestyle in Las Vegas like her cousin Cammie ("Crooning with Dino") and later escapes to San Francisco ("The Boy on the Bus"). Spot-on pop-culture references telegraph time and place. A few stories are marred by overly gimmicky endings, but the last two, about missed connections, are freighted with pathos. A soulful and multilayered book from this accomplished author.