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Kiss Carlo


Kiss Carlo

KISS CARLO is a beach read in the best possible sense of the definition. It is best read with the time and inclination to be transported to another place, another moment and another set of problems. It is best read when you can reach back in memory for your high school Shakespeare class and recall the plot of TWELFTH NIGHT. And it is best read when you can hand it off to a beach mate and say, “Here. This is a good read.”

In KISS CARLO, Adriana Trigiani’s latest novel, the characters become alive with detail and accuracy. For instance, Peachy DePino was a “feral Philly girl, thin from the war and nerves” who gently winds the gears of her wristwatch while she waits at the Theatre for the curtain to rise. Each piece of her clothing, in multiple shades of pink and in multiple fabrics, resonates to 1949, the post-WWII American satisfaction, and the exhilaration and possibilities of a new decade. Peachy’s true distaste for the whole Shakespearean experience is captured as she dismisses theatre folk as merely foolish and oddly ill-dressed.

"Adriana Trigiani is known for her engrossing, heartfelt sagas, and KISS CARLO succeeds in continuing this tradition."

The central character, Nicky Castone, was orphaned at age five, and his aunt and uncle take him in. He is a cousin yet is an outsider to a sprawling, totally connected and traditional Italian family; he lives in the basement of the five-story house and is the last single male in the Palazzini family. He drives a cab by day and is a script man by night at the Borelli Shakespeare Theatre. It is here where he is forced to ponder where the highs of adrenaline, the lows of disappointment and the moments of triumph came from.

One night Nicky is a stand-in for a performance, and this surprisingly powerful evening forces him to consider his life for the first time. He listens to the familiar information from the director as she coaches the cast and asks them to challenge the audience with discoveries through Shakespeare’s tales. He realizes that the theatre is the only place in his life where the pursuit of happiness was possible.

Nicky’s seven-year engagement to a woman who wants only to be married, live in a mortgaged house and have children is broken as Nicky realizes, at long last, they have nothing in common except the engagement. Chaos ensues as all family members become involved in the break-up. An interlude in Nicky’s life occurs as he rashly decides to impersonate an Italian ambassador who was meant to officiate at the Cadillac Dinner in Roseto, about an hour from Philadelphia. If this weekend is meant to further explore Nicky’s urge to live life on his terms, it works. And if it was meant primarily for comic relief, it’s a win-win.

Sam Borelli, the owner of the Borelli Shakespeare Theatre, appears wise, compassionate and wistful when he re-reads the Shakespearean histories as he nears the end of his life. Sam cannot believe that life has gone so quickly. He looks back: Lear tested his daughters, Sam never did. Richard chose favorites, Sam treated the troupe members evenly. Henry IV convinced Sam to turn the theatre over to his daughter early enough so that she could claim it as hers. Sam recalls that in his days of directing plays, he would ask the cast to do a run-through of the last act, and the final scene, on the first day of rehearsal. The cast never wanted to do it, but he explained that he wanted them to know where they were headed from the first day so they would not make mistakes getting there. This thoughtful exercise becomes even more poignant as the story unfolds.

Adriana Trigiani is known for her engrossing, heartfelt sagas, and KISS CARLO succeeds in continuing this tradition. Above all in this novel, her readers will enjoy the fun of good storytelling and the warmth of her theme --- La famiglia e tutto: Family is everything.

Reviewed by Jane Krebs on June 21, 2017

Kiss Carlo
by Adriana Trigiani

  • Publication Date: January 16, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 006231923X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062319234