Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ADVICE FOR ITALIAN BOYS by Anne Giardini (2009)

Reading this novel has made me think about the genetic predisposition for talent. Giardini is the lawyer daughter of esteemed Canadian novelist Carol Shields, who won the Pulitzer Prize for THE STONE DIARIES. Both women write with such grace about the wonder in the ordinariness of our daily lives.

Nicolo Pavone is the protagonist of this finely wrought portrait of a close-knit Italian Catholic family that includes 40-something parents who dance the waltz, foxtrot and quick step as a method of birth control, a brother who marries his high-school girlfriend because it's the right thing to do when she finds herself pregnant at 18 like many of her sisters, and Nonna, the paternal grandmother who provides the proverbial advice to anyone who will listen.

Some of the delectable aphorisms Nonna recites include, "Priests and kicks in the backside, blessed is he who has neither one; "something that is born a circle can't die a square; and "tears for the dead are wasted."

Anne Giardini has certainly followed in her own mother's literary footsteps. ADVICE FOR ITALIAN BOYS is as cunning and sweet and tenderhearted a novel as any one Carol Shields ever penned.

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