Review

Full of Grace

by Dorothea Benton Frank

 

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 pinch.
 
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 right.
 
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
by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 317 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0060892358
  • ISBN-13: 9780060892357