From Publishers Weekly
The jacket copy defines PW Forecasts editor Rotella's narrative as a "model travelogue," but it's much more. Even without a conventional conflict and plot, the author's intensity and personal commitment to a country and its inhabitants cast a spell. Anecdotes range from comedic-a long unseen relative scolds Rotella's father, "Thirty years and you don't write!"-to curiously romantic, as when the author's wedding ring slips off his finger while swimming and a "crazy aunt" exclaims, "That's good luck. Now you will have to return!" Descriptions of delicacies such as soppressata, capicola, fettucine and rag simmered with pepperoni incite a desire to be there just for the luscious, succulent meals, supporting Rotella's belief that you simply can't get a bad meal in Italy. Calabria is a particularly vivid character; readers learn how much the region has been through: spoiled by drought, destroyed by earthquakes and plundered by barons and kings. Rotella points out the effects of Mafia control in Bianca, a small, decrepit city, and the economic destruction it causes, without belaboring or stereotyping the Italian-Mafia connection. Playful moments are equally memorable, detailing petty fig heists from trees belonging to unknown farmers. Such likable protagonists as Rotella's loving father, his wife, and guide Giuseppe are woven unobtrusively through the tale of a culture that counts among its children Tony Bennett, Phil Rizzuto and Stanley Tucci. The book is a love letter, and Rotella reinforces that feeling when he writes, "I am a romantic. With each trip back to Calabria, I've felt myself becoming not only more Calabrese but more Italian." Readers, whether Italian or not, will find themselves captivated by so much meticulously drawn history and enchanting terrain.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Rotella introduces the world of contemporary Calabria, the southernmost tip of the Italian peninsula, Rotella's ancestral home and that of most Italian Americans. This rugged land offers little agricultural bounty save those hardy Mediterranean natives: olives, figs, oranges, and grapes. Rotella and his father pay a visit to the family village, Gimigliano, perched on a crag. There they begin encounters with those relatives who chose not to flee to an easier life in America. So successful is the family reunion that Rotella vows to return biennially. Over a series of journeys, he witnesses growth in Calabria's tourist trade by those who love things Italian but who cannot afford trendy Umbria and Tuscany. Tales told by local Calabrese intertwine with Rotella's father's stories of growing up in Connecticut. Exhausting the chronicles of his ancestral town, Rotella sets out with the indefatigable Giuseppe to traverse the rest of Calabria. Stories flow easily from Rotella's pen, and his portrait of Calabrese life will no doubt encourage more to visit the south of Italy. Mark KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved