Grace Russo, otherwise known as Maria Graziella, has a large, loud,
Italian Catholic family and they're driving her nuts. Sure she
loves them, but enough is enough already. She's 32 years old and
confident that she's old enough to make her own decisions. Why is
it then that every time she returns home, which is often, she feels
like a child who's done something wrong?
It could be the fact that she's living in sin with an agnostic
doctor of Irish descent who performs stem-cell research and has
more faith in science than in religion. It could be that at 32
she's as far as she ever was from marriage and babies and all the
other things a Catholic Italian girl should be doing by now. It
could be that she's fallen away from the Church and questions the
very existence of God.
At any rate, with way more than three strikes against her, Grace
returns home for celebrations and catastrophes, all along wondering
where and how she fits into this family and into the world. The
support of family is great, but the responsibilities that accompany
it can be smothering.
It's easy to see why Grace would feel a bit overwhelmed. After all,
there's Nonna, her grandmother on her mother's side. Nonna is
larger than life, physically as well as metaphorically. She is
devoutly Catholic, speaks with the dead and rules her family with
an iron fist. When she breaks a hip, the family is more than ever
expected to bow to her every desire.
There's Big Al, Grace's dad. Big doesn't even begin to describe Big
Al and the way he does things on a grand scale. He loves his little
girl but is on a campaign of silent disapproval in retaliation for
her relationship. But Big also describes his heart, and even when
Grace is in the doghouse, she knows she can always turn to him in a
Connie, Grace's 98-pound mother, has a way of getting lost in the
shuffle with Nonna and Big Al vying for her time and her services.
She cooks, cleans and keeps the home fires burning as everyone else
goes about their lives. She has a champion in Grace, however, who
does her best to emancipate her mother from the tyranny of the rest
of the family.
There is also an assortment of brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and
nephews. A Russo family get-together is no small event. While the
family is large, so is the assortment of food at every gathering.
Not only is the traditional Italian fare served for every occasion
--- it's followed up with another meal consisting of the
corresponding American dishes. Russos do things up and they do them
Don't be intimidated, though. Family is family, and one more is
always welcome at the Russo table. Grab a plate and pull up a
chair. I guarantee that by the end of this funny and meaningful
novel, you'll feel like one of the family.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 22, 2011
Full of Grace