Births mark beginnings, while funerals toll in endings. Yet there resides so much in-between drama in the timeline of an extended family: moments of intense joy, times of heart-wrenching grief, and the day-to-day plodding of ups and downs that color all of human existence. In a series of linked short stories that superbly capture the emotions her characters experience in these chapters of life, the author deftly chronicles the personal episodes that transform the lives of five Italian-American cousins during the final years before the death of one of the family patriarchs.
The first tale of the ten in the book, "Villa Foresta," introduces the reader to Joanna and her husband Elliott, a couple struggling to cope in the aftermath of the death of their daughter. Rich in the atmosphere of the Italian countryside, the crushing pain of loss, and the brief interlude of hope and happiness Joanna finds in a little girl, this bittersweet story may possibly be the best one in the group. This is not to say that the rest of them are merely mediocre. In actuality, every one of the glimpses into the lives of the Ficola cousins is a keeper and proves that Labozzetta, in her second collection of short fiction, is a master of this form of writing. Throughout the book, the author reveals how belief or disbelief in the supernatural, betrayal, abandonment, self-sacrifice, and, most of all, love can nudge our lives onto new and unexpected paths.
It is easy to see how most of Labozzetta's works have placed or been in the running for prestigious honors like the Pushcart Prize and the Eric Hoffer Award. What is more difficult to fathom, with writing this excellent, is why they haven't won more of them.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review