For Adri-addicts and newcomers alike, Kiss Carlo is a delightfully retro read from novelist Adriana Trigiani, best-selling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife.
Carlo (Harper, 544 pp., ***½ out of four stars) is a sprawling story that stretches from Italy to Philadelphia and New York to interweave the lives of hard-working Italian families making a living in the years after World War II.
Nicky Castone is a soldier home from the war who devotedly lives with and works for his Uncle Dom and Aunt Jo as a cab driver for their company. Engaged for seven long years to Peachy DePino, Nicky secretly spends his evening hours working at a struggling local theater run by its determined director, Calla Borelli.
An illness in the theater company puts Nicky at center stage, where he finds his passion. That passion doesn’t include Peachy, whose family comes after Nick when he jilts her mid-wedding preparations. Nicky gets the chance to flee the angry DePinos — and test his fledgling acting chops — by impersonating an Italian ambassador who is the guest of honor at a jubilee in Roseto, Pa.
Nicky and Calla’s chemistry is crackling; they don’t talk so much as banter. The path they must travel to each other’s side is winding but rewarding, mostly because of the characters they meet along the way.
Nicky and Calla are the stars of this show, but scene-stealers abound, including the hilariously wronged Peachy; Hortense, the black dispatcher who accompanies Nick on his caper in Roseto; and Mamie, the fetching young widow Nick falls for there.
If this plot sounds as contrived as a Doris Day-Rock Hudson screwball comedy, it is. But at a time when crass seems to trump class in popular culture, Kiss Carlo may be just what we need, a warmhearted romp that’s a welcome escape from novels about girls who are gone/on a train/tattooed.
Kiss Carlo is set…