“Villa Mirabella” by Peter Pezzelli
Overview from http://www.bn.com:
In his acclaimed novels of Italian-American life, Peter Pezzelli explores themes of friendship, hope, and second chances. With Villa Mirabella, he invites readers into the lives of an unforgettable family—and into the warmth of one very special bed and breakfast…
When Jason Mirabella returns to his childhood home on a blustery winter’s day, the only thing he’s sure of is that he’ll be staying in Providence just long enough to get back on his feet again. It’s been three years since Jason moved to Los Angeles, brimming with ambitions he knew could never be fulfilled in Rhode Island. He had no intention of entering the family business—running a beautiful but timeworn B&B that’s struggling to compete with downtown’s luxurious new hotels. Smart, proud, and hardworking, Jason found quick success in L.A, until one foolish decision cost him everything.
Jason’s widowed father, Giulio, is overjoyed to have his prodigal son back in the fold under any circumstances, though his siblings, Ray and Natalie, are less than thrilled. But as days go by, Jason slowly begins to carve out a place for himself, rediscovering the people and places he was so eager to leave behind, and beginning a tentative romance with a young woman who opens his eyes to a wider world.
Just as Jason begins to forge a better understanding of his family, circumstances transpire to test that bond and challenge his resolutions. Now, as the promise of spring comes to New England once more, Jason will learn that sometimes, you can go home again, and the answers found there may be the only ones you need…
I have always liked Peter Pezzelli’s books since I found the first one at a nearby public library. I don’t even remember which one it was now but I loved it. Pretty soon I had read every one of his books that I could find, wondering when the next one would come out. In the meantime I started reading other books and discovered a few other wonderful authors too. When I decided to this blog, I thought eventually I might want to review one of his books, either one I had already read, or just maybe he might have a new one. Well, I found that new one- Mr. Pezzelli’s most recent effort- and it has everything I loved about his other books.
First, his main characters are Italian Americans but never clichéd. There are no mafia dons, badly behaving wannabes from New Jersey, or dumb but lovable working class heroes. His characters are real people who I suspect many people could relate to. I know I can.
When Jason Mirabella comes home, he comes home with his tail between his legs. He had been making another life for himself away from his family, and from the family business. (I know what you’re thinking and you’re wrong, this is not the Godfather here.) He had been a big shot in LA, where he had lived for the last three years, when our story opens, and done pretty well for himself. But one big mistake sent the life he had built crashing down around him.
He shows up unannounced on his father’s doorstep one cold evening in Providence, not knowing what to say. For a while, much to his relief, his father doesn’t ask for an explanation though Jason knows he will soon have to tell him what happened. The tension he feels when he thinks of this, like the guilt he carries with him, is like someone’s boot pushing down on his chest. Pezzelli writes:
Though curled into a ball, burrowed beneath the blankets as if in a cocoon, the young man was overcome by the sensation that he was laid out straight, suffocating, like someone who had been buried alive. p.1
The imagery reminds me not just of someone who is buried alive but also of someone who is actually dead already, being laid out for his funeral. It seems like Pezzelli is suggesting to us, in this opening chapter, that Jason is dead already; or maybe it is only his life in LA which has died but in either case, it seems like the guilt has already started to work on his conscience.
His only choice was to go back home, something he dreads and yet, he has no other choice being recently fired from his dream job, facing eviction from his apartment and having no prospects of finding another job- not to mention very little money left.
His father, Giulio, reintroduces him to the family business, as well as his siblings, who are less than thrilled to have him back. (His mother has already passed on years ago.) Though he is not making nearly as much money as he was in California, things seem to go fairly well for him for a while. He meets a girl he likes and finds himself a little place on the third floor of the family’s bed and breakfast where he can set up an office.
But things take a turn for the worse when a bank deposit that he makes on behalf of the business turns up missing. When Jason can’t produce the receipt, his siblings immediately suspect him of stealing the money just when he had begun to earn their trust again. Also, other problems with the family business and girlfriend troubles then threaten to unravel the new life he had started to make for himself in Providence. As a new job offer comes his way, Jason must decide whether to abandon his new life in Rhode Island, and leave his family again, or stay put through the worst of it.
This book is of course heart-warming but that doesn’t not mean it is all seriousness. Some of my favorite parts are when the “lasagna ladies,” these are some local unmarried Italian women who take turns bringing Giulio home-cooked meals in hopes that one of them might someday catch him for a husband, make an appearance. The sections of the book where they show up are hilarious, especially when Jason opens the door to find two of them, who are sisters, standing there and one of them even suggests to Jason that she is available though she admits she might be a little too old for him.
Alas, I am running out of time here. But if you are looking for a good read that will uplift you as well as take you on a fun ride, look no further than “Villa Mirabella.”