The Last One Home

Annette Appollo, Author
Annette Appollo, Author HarperCollins Publishers $24 (277p) ISBN 978-0-06-019208-2
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 388 pages - 978-0-06-109721-8
Hardcover - 470 pages - 978-0-7862-2069-4
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Gia Scarpino, a middle-aged lawyer, returns to the Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood to see her dying Uncle Tony, who raised her. During her weeklong visit, Gia catches up with her high school friends: Willie, her onetime sweetheart, now a handsome Jesuit priest; Yozo, a wise-cracking entrepreneur; and Barbara, an alcoholic trapped in a loveless marriage. As Tony fades, Gia and friends reminisce and revisit the hangouts of their youth. Willie must wrestle with his conscience and the demands of his vocation when he realizes that he has never stopped loving Gia. Meanwhile, as Gia comes to terms with losing Uncle Tony, her aunts, Tony's sisters, must come to terms with her. Everyone must come to terms with Tony's vague Mafia connections, and readers must reconcile to a bevy of sideswipes at the church, including nuns who beat children and a priest who has sex in a graveyard. Appollo's first novel aspires at once to pathos, psychology, ethnography and political argument: it seeks to move readers with Gia's troubles, explain and explore the folkways of an Italian-American family, reflect lyrically on the passage of the time and the meanings of death, and to attack organized religion. But the subplots and meanings get in one another's way, and no single character emerges with a rich personal history. An improbable happy ending can't save it. (Mar.)
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