Francesca’s Kitchen

Published September 18, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

Francesca’s Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli

Overview from www.bn.com: No one writes about Italian-American families with the humor, warmth, and heart of Peter Pezzelli. Now, with Francesca’s Kitchen, he delivers another winning novel about how much we need the closeness of family–even if we don’t know it.      Where There’s Food, There’s Family      For years, Francesca Campanile was the queen of her home. Standing in her Rhode Island kitchen, making sauce from sun-ripened tomatoes, dropping in basil from her garden, and adding fresh onion, Francesca dispensed advice as liberally as she did the garlic, arguing nonstop with her son and two daughters.       It was wonderful.       But now, her children and their children have moved away. And for the widowed Francesca, no longer having a family around to pester, annoy, guide, love, harangue and, of course, cook for, makes her feel useless. Who is she without them? What she needs is another family that needs her, and when she sees Loretta Simmons’s ad in the Providence paper for a part-time nanny, she’s sure she’s found it. All the single mom wants is someone to fill in for a few hours a day. But it’s obvious to Francesca that Loretta and her kids need more–a lot more. Loretta’s struggling to make ends meet. Every man she brings home is a disaster. And her kids could definitely use some guidance–and a little lasagna, frankly. In these frazzled, disconnected people, Francesca senses a hunger and loneliness as deep as her own. It’s time for Francesca to work…

My Review:

This is the second book of Peter Pezzelli’s books that I am review though I think I have read all of them.  To be fair I should mention that I have read this before and loved it.  In fact, I loved it so much that this is one of the few e-books that I have actually purchased with money.  That’s how much I liked it.  And it didn’t disappoint on the second reading.

If you follow this blog you will know by now that I love books about Italian American families, particularly those written by Italian-American authors and Mr. Pezzelli is one of my favorites.  This one is my favorite of this author’s books.  I love the character of Francesca and how she thinks she can solve everything with pasta, and nearly does too!  I would have loved to have a nonna like her growing up.

When we first see Francesca, she is on a plane, fresh from a visit with one of her daughters in Florida, and headed back to her home in Rhode Island.  She holds her rosary beads and uses them to calm her fear of flying when a young man begins to take pity on her and talk to her.  She enjoys the talk though her fear of flying has not been eviserated.  Still she appreciates his company.

“She  was grateful for the conversation, for it had mader her feel a little better.  Just the same, as the engines roared and the plane began its takeoff, Francesca took hold of her rosary beads and the pictures of her grandchildren, and began to pray.

There was no point in taking chances.”  p.14

While she may seem like a nervous Nellie, she is not all that crazy.  She goes to her local library frequently, not only to pass the time, but also to keep her mind occupied.  This is something that I admire about her and that you don’t often see in the elderly.  At the library, she checks out some tapes on learning Vietnamese so that she can talk to some of her neighbors.  This is something that people often don’t think of when they think of little old Italian ladies but I love it.

With all her great qualities though Francesca has one big problem.  She is lonely.  Two of her three children live out-of-state with her grandchildren and she only has the occasional company of her son, who is busy living a life of his own.  Her husband died years ago, so her son and the ladies at the library are pretty much her only company since she lives alone.

One day however, with a little nudging from her doctor, Francesca decides to take a job as a babysitter for a single mother who sometimes is kept at work late.  At first, she views the arrangement as something to occupy her time, but as things progress, she becomes more and more involved in their lives.  She starts to think that they might need her as much as she needs them.

Eventually things start to get better for her young charges and their mother and she is touched when they ask to call her Nonna.  She is grateful to have been able to assist them but starts to feel like something is missing.  Perhaps an old woman like her is no longer needed after all.  It seems like it will take everything they got for the people she loves to convince her otherwise.  Fortunately, they love her just as much as she loves them.

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