From Publishers Weekly
However meandering, the "Road to Wellville" eventually leads to Mussolini's Rome in this offbeat debut, a spaghetti spinoff of a rags-to-riches Horatio Alger tale. At age nine, Beppe Arpino is a dreamy, taciturn insomniac, the eldest of three siblings raised in a remote Italian village by a hysterical widow whose husband was stabbed to death shortly after arriving in America. Befriended by Father Vincenzo, a slightly dotty priest, Beppe becomes something of an accidental cellist virtuoso. A chipped molar and a chance encounter with an itinerant tooth extractor lead the inquisitive Beppe to a fascination with teeth. After the old priest dies, the erstwhile cellist eventually finds his way to Naples to study dentistry and is taken under the tutelage of Dr. Puzo, a quixotic and jaded dental pedagogue. Metamorphosed into a sort of Neapolitan Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Dr. Puzo's passion is now focused more upon a holistic fanaticism with fitness and wellness than with filling teeth. Benefiting from Puzo's rigorous discipline, Beppe rescues the son of a wealthy aristocrat beset by thugs; fascinated by the victim's sister's perfect teeth, he falls in love with her and they become engaged. The nave Puzo becomes the unwitting pawn of the Fascist Mussolini and exacts a deathbed promise that Beppe will deliver his fitness plan for Il Duce's ironfisted new order. Despite the risk of losing his true love, Beppe, now a successful dentist, goes to Rome to keep his appointment with destiny. Shadowed vaguely by the rise of Mussolini, this whimsical if ungainly tale is not without a certain charm, but it fails to shade its hodgepodge of characters and plot lines with humor or ideological nuance.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Hozy Rossi's quirky debut novel follows the trials and tribulations of young Beppe Arpino, an impoverished and fatherless child, and his life in a small and isolated southern Italian town during the time of Mussolini's rise to power. The hapless Beppe becomes a minor celebrity in his small town when his hidden talent for music is discovered, and eventually he develops into an excellent cellist under the tutelage of the local priest, Father Vincenzo. It is also under the priest's fatherly guidance that Beppe develops a consuming passion for and interest in teeth. After Father Vincenzo's mysterious death and a stint laboring in the local butcher shop, Beppe heads to Naples to pursue a career in dentistry. Once there he enrolls in dental school, apprentices with an eccentric doctor, falls in love, and is finally happy--that is, until the realities of the Fascist state intervene. Filled with outlandish misadventures, Appointment with Il Duce
is an enjoyable and often silly, but quick and satisfying read. Kathleen HughesCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved