cover image Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

Terri-Lynne DeFino. Morrow, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-322843-6

DeFino (The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)) offers a bighearted story of a suburban New Jersey Italian family. Holding the family together, if barely, is 70-year-old Varina Palladino, widowed 14 years and running the family’s grocery store. Varina’s feisty 92-year-old mother, Sylvia, and her volatile 35-year-old daughter, Donatella, believe Varina needs a new guy in her life, and they concoct a plan to arrange a match. Meanwhile, Varina has plans to travel in Europe, Sylvia finds a possible love interest of her own, Donatella gets in trouble for violating a restraining order against her ex, and a gay family friend yearns for Donatella’s older brother. DeFino prefaces each chapter with colorful definitions of Italian American slang and hand gestures (“To counter the maloik [the evil eye], make the ma’cornoot (mana cornuto, in Italian) or, the ‘devil’ sign, by making a fist and leaving up index finger and pinky”). DeFino keeps the many plots spinning over the course of a year, with happy romances tempered by bittersweet changes in the characters’ lives and a mental health diagnosis for Donatella. Readers will be glad to immerse themselves in the Palladinos’ exuberant world. Agent: Janna Bonikowski, Knight Agency. (Feb.)