Friday, July 26, 2013

The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri

"I knew my moment with Mama was lost. 
Everyone else was taking over. 
But then--then she turned and caught my eye, 
smiled and winked. 
A warmth, better than the summer sun, 
seeped into my bloodstream. 
She wasn't forgetting me."

Every book club in the world should read this book.  There’s just so much to it. I know with my old book club the discussion would have gone one of about a million different ways. To begin with, you have a great story. A little bit of magic, but nothing that would turn off the non-fantasy lovers out there. You have a theme of domestic violence that’s always ripe for discussion. There’s a love story, a recurring tragedy: “The day the Amores died” (though to clarify, the tragedy itself doesn’t recur, just its presence in the story), babies, mysteries, dual narrators, and the list goes on.

But what can’t be overstated is this book’s incredible theme of motherhood, which presents itself in so many forms. More specifically, you see the theme of mother-daughter relationships. You have examples of relationships that work as well as ones that don’t. You see reality in the swing between devastating regret and euphoric happiness that seems to always be waiting around the corner for mother and daughter. I found it masterful that Palmieri created a story with so many mothers when there were really only 4 main characters in the book—and three of them have the same mother! You see mothers of large families, several mothers with only one child, and even some with none. I especially appreciated the mother figures that came in the form of aunts and grandmothers, showing the complexity of motherhood that is inherent in womanhood. 

I could talk forever about the mother-daughter theme, but I’d like to briefly touch on something else I loved about this book. The entire story centers on Elly regaining her memory. (Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything; it’s right on the back cover of the book.) What Palmieri was so good at was making you feel like you were remembering things along with Elly. The story builds on each chapter that came before. Pieces of memories are shared out of context, and when they’re placed into context, you feel like you’re remembering. The author does this with her foreshadowing as well. She gives you enough to make you say to yourself, “I wonder if…” and then when it happens you think, “Ohhhhh, yeah. Now I remember. I thought maybe that was it.” I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say the best example of this was with the story about Cat. Well done, Suzanne Palmieri. Well done.

This book probably won't make any required-reading lists, but if you want to read a book that's really good for discussion, I recommend The Witch of Little Italy. And if you read it and don't have anyone to talk to about it, TALK TO ME! I finished the book nearly a week ago and can't stop thinking about it. 

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