Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Pages: 544
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.   Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.  From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.  Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers."

It's 1949 and Calla Borelli's father owns a run down theater in South Philly that only shows Shakespearean plays, so obviously, it is struggling a bit.  Calla works there, because along with her father, it's her passion, but she is not sure how it will stay open much longer.  Nicky Castone works at the theater and also his family's cab company.  He is an orphan and his aunt has taken him in, so he lives with his extended family in South Philly.  His Uncle Dom's cab company competes with his estranged Uncle Mike's cab company in true South Philly fashion as they haven't talked to his other family in years due to a feud.  Things seems to be going well for Nicky. He is engaged to be married to Peachy, he works at the theater which brings him joy, and he has a steady job at the cab company. One night during the Twelfth Night play at the theater he replaces an ailing actor and he is in a scene with Calla. Sparks fly, but what should he do about it? Should he go against his family's expectations and follow his heart and his dream of acting or should be marry Peachy, live in South Philly and the rest is history?  Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani has it all. It has family drama, hilarious moments, quiet moments, and reflections of family life from days gone by.  It even has similar characteristics to Shakespeare's plays, which I especially appreciated it.

Trigiani has a way of developing characters that just feel so real in Kiss Carlo.  Calla is such a memorable character and I enjoyed every aspect of her.  Her desire to keep the theater going is an admirable one and I adored the fact that she was a non-conformist, which is a big deal for the time period.  Then there's Nicky who I also liked. Even though I didn't always agree with his decisions, he was a really well-rounded character that tugged on my heartstrings.  While I enjoyed Nicky, I LOVED his extended family. I seriously wanted to go to their house for dinner and sit around and talk to them all. What a cast of characters!

The setting of South Philly and 1949 is spot on in Kiss Carlo. Even though I don't live in Philadelphia (I live in a suburb outside of it), I was able to appreciate all the references to famous places, streets, and traditions from yesteryear.  I have family members that grew up in the city, so it was as if Trigiani brought to life Philadelphia in 1949. I felt like I was sitting in my grandmother's old dining room listening to some of her stories. More than once it brought a tear to my eye, as it felt like Trigiani reached into my grandmother's mind and shared some of her stories about life in the city as Italian immigrants.

But Kiss Carlo isn't all family drama. There are some hilarious moments involving planning a wedding, mistaken identity, and of course there's the whole rocky road to true love.  Trigiani has a way of making me laugh out loud. Her dialogue is pretty fantastic and accurate for a large Italian family. People with large extended families that tend to meddle in everyone's business, will especially enjoy Kiss Carlo.

If you are a fan of family dramas as well as Trigiani's previous novels, you won't be disappointed with Kiss Carlo.  It would be a great addition to your beach bag this summer.


  1. This sounds wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it and found a personal connection to the story as well. I really liked The Shoemaker's Wife and Kiss Carlo sounds like it has the same kind of charm. I will have to look for it at the library. Great review!

    1. I think you'll like this one since you enjoyed The Shoemaker's Wife. I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks for visiting, Christina!


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