Friday, February 10, 2023

Book Review: Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: February 14, 2023
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Lively widow Varina Paladino has lived in the same house in Wyldale, New Jersey, her entire life. The town might be slightly stuck in the 1960s, when small businesses thrived and most residents were Italian, but its population is getting younger and the Paladinos are embracing the change. What Varina's not embracing, much to her ninety-two-year-old mother's dismay, is dating. Running Paladino's Italian Specialties grocery, caring for her mother, and keeping her large, loud Jersey Italian family from killing one another takes up all of Varina's energy anyway. Sylvia Spini worries about her daughter Varina being left all alone when she dies. Sylvia knows what it is to be old and alone, so when her granddaughter, Donatella, comes to her with an ill-conceived plan to find Varina a man, Sylvia dives in. The three Paladino sons--Dante, Tommy, and Paulie--are each secretly plotting their own big life changes, which will throw the whole family for a loop. Three generations of Paladinos butt heads and break one another's hearts as they wrestle with their own Jersey Italian love stories in this hilarious and life-affirming ode to love and family."



Varina Palladino has always kept her family together, their traditions alive, and everyone happy. She runs her family's Italian-American grocery story, keeps an eye on her aging mother, and takes care of her grown (and sometimes needy) children when they need her. She is a widow and has never thought of moving on from her husband or even traveling, but this year she is thinking of leaving her comfort zone. Varina's mother, Sylvia, and Varina's troubled daughter, Donatella, decide to hatch a plan to get Varina dating. Meanwhile, there's plenty of family drama. All three of Varina's sons are going through some major life changes, her daughter is getting into trouble....again, their gay family friend has feelings for a Palladino, Sylvia is worried about what will happen to Varina after she passes on, and Varina is planning a trip to Europe. So many changes are en route for the Palladinos and some of these changes will make you laugh-out-loud, cringe, and make you tear up. Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne DeFino is a charming family tale that fans of Adriana Trigiani will thoroughly enjoy.

I really enjoyed Varina from the start of Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Storyand felt for her. She has dedicated so much of her life to taking care of her mother, her kids and the store that I wanted her to do something for herself. Her daughter, Donatella, is exhausting and honestly needs to grow up, but there's more than just her misbehaving at play here. I was so glad Varina started to put her needs first and plan a trip to Europe with one of her new friends. Even though Sylvia and Donatella have her best interest in mind regarding a love match, I knew that it was destined to be a disaster since Varina was in the dark about it. Nevertheless, it was a entertaining ride to go on as there's a lot of mayhem in this boisterous Italian family.

I especially appreciated the start of each chapter of Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story as it included Italian-American slang words that pertain to the upcoming plot line. This was pure fun and some of the slang words I hadn't heard in years. Readers who have friends or family that are from Italy will especially appreciate this aspect of the novel. 

If you enjoy Adriana Trigiani's novels or My Big Fat Greek Wedding, give this  heartfelt family drama a try this winter. It had me craving a coffee, a pizzelle, and a long talk with my grandmother. Foodies will enjoy all the descriptions of Italian food and recipes, too! So, is Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story on your TBR list? It would be a perfect book to curl up with this Valentine's Day. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 



  1. New Jersey and a big Italian family - sounds very comforting (and familiar!) to me!

    1. Right?! It reminded me so much of my grandmother and her extended family. I hope you get to read this one soon, Angela!

  2. It seems that I might be reading about my family! I look forward to reading this and enjoying and interesting story and some good laughs!

    1. I hope you get to read it soon! It was a delight!


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