Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Advice for Italian Boys" Anne Giardini

Last night at 2 am I woke up with horrible jaw pain due to an ongoing toothache I've been battling. After getting up and popping some Advil so that I could hopefully get back to sleep this side of 5 am I finally got to finish the absolutely wonderful "Advice for Italian Boys". I started this one not quite knowing what to expect. Actually, I think what I was expecting was something light and carefree. What I actually got was lyrical prose and vivid imagery. I got a book that flowed from sentence to sentence, character to character. I actually don't think that I've even read a book that flowed in quite this way, and I enjoyed discovering it.

"Advice for Italian Boys" is primarily the story of Nicolo Pavone, the middle son in an Italian-Canadian family. Nicolo's older brother Enzo is married with two kids; his younger brother is in his first year of law school. Nicolo is working as an instructor and personal trainer at a nearby gym and he doesn't quite know what path he should be following. He's 24, with no formal college education, and he's still living at home with his mom, his dad, and his Nonna from Italy. He's never been in love, and although he has a large savings account, he has nobody that he wants to spend it on. He's doing well enough on the outside, yet internally he feels as if he's wandering aimlessly.

As Nicolo discovers what path he should be on in life we hear stories from his childhood that have shaped the way that he is now. We are also able to familiarize ourselves more intimately with a few of the characters in Nicolo's life: his Nonna, his father, his younger brother Enzo, and his clients at the gym. What I took from this book is that there are so many different paths that can be taken in life, and so many choices to be made along the way, yet none of these is explicitly right or wrong. All of the choices that we make, both good and bad, band together to form who we are at any given stage in our lives. I finished the book with a sense of whatever choices we make in life will eventually lead us to the path that we need to be on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; so much so that I would say that this is one of my favourites so far in 2009. I can't say enough about it: the message was beautiful and profound, the writing elegant, the descriptions vivid. Do yourself a favour and make the time to pick this one up. We could all use a little "Advice for Italian Boys". You can read the first few pages here using HarperCollins' Browse Inside feature.

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