Reading one of this author’s books is like reading a Christmas letter from a family you have known for years. The characters are all so familiar it doesn’t seem like it is fiction at all. And this is true even if you haven’t read the previous books in this series, for after the first chapter you will feel like – in a good way – that you have known this family forever!
Valentine Roncalli is 35 and is about to be married for the first time to the older, dashing and handsome Italian, Gianluca Vechiarelli. Valentine isn’t worried as much about the 18-year-age difference as the possibility that her family might seem too much for Gianluca. But in fact, it already is Gianluca’s family too, since his father married Valentine’s grandmother.
When Gram got married to Dominic Vechiarelli, she handed over her shoe-making business to Valentine, who goes at it with American ambition and drive. This creates a bit of a culture clash with Gianluca, who explains:
“We don’t eat ambition three times a day to sustain ourselves. We work hard, but it doesn’t fill us up. Only love can do that.”
[See? This is one of the reasons why I always wanted to move to Italy. That, and the pasta.]
How they work out these differences forms one of the plot lines of this book, but the importance of family is the main story. As Gram tells Valentine:
“There are no lone wolves in the family structure – there shouldn’t be. It’s the community of your heart, your allies in a very difficult world. You don’t know what the future holds, but your family will be there to hold you when you need them.”
As we follow this family over the next two years (the book begins in 2010), we learn about what goes into a marriage, and just how important family can be. You will laugh and cry and feel like you’ve spent a long Thanksgiving with the Roncallis and Vechiarellis. You will also emerge several pounds heavier, since you will be inspired to start cooking because of the many food scenes in this book! But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Valentine’s sister Tess says: “…if I can’t be the eater who stays skinny, I’d want to be invisible, so I could eat whatever I want and no one would look at me.” Valentine’s friend Gabriel replies, “That’s called marriage.”
And yes, this book is full of funny lines like the one cited above. You will not only feel like you are at a Thanksgiving dinner, but at one that takes place during a Comedy Channel reality show.
At one point, Gabriel observes to Valentine, “You realize that you’ve hired every Roncalli in the family except for the goldfish in your mother’s koi pond…. Family: the gift that keeps on taking.”
And giving. Like this book. The author shares with you her wonderful sense of humor, her warmth, and her love for others. And you get to take. And enjoy.
Evaluation: Whether or not you have read any previous books about Valentine Roncalli and her colorful extended family and labor-intensive designer shoe business, you will love this book. This is a family you won’t want to live without, just as Valentine herself feels.
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013