Monday, January 12, 2015

[Pat's Review]: "Stella Mia"

Stella Mia by Rosanna Chiofalo
Publisher: Kensington (December 30, 2014)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Julia Parlatone doesn't have much to remember her Italian mother by. A grapevine that Sarina planted still flourishes in the backyard of Julia's childhood home in Astoria, Queens. And there's a song, "Stella Mia," she recalls her mother singing - my star, my star, you are the most beautiful star - until the day she left three-year-old Julia behind and returned to Italy for good.

Now a happily married school teacher, Julia tries not to dwell on a past she can't change or on a mother who chose to leave. But in an old trunk in the family basement, she discovers items that belonged to her mother - a songbook, Tarot cards, a Sicilian folk costume - and a diary. Sarina writes unflinchingly of her harsh childhood and of a first, passionate love affair; of blissful months spent living in the stunning coastal resort town of Taormina and the unspoiled Aeolian Islands north of Sicily as well as the reasons she came to New York. By the diary's end, Julia knows she must track down her mother in Italy and piece together the rest of the complex, bittersweet truth - a journey that, for better or worse, will change her own life forever.

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Pat's Review:

This is the third novel by Ms. Chiofalo, and very different from the first two. That being said, it was equally as beautiful and entertaining a read. The setting is Sicily in the 1960's other than a brief stop in Astoria, New York, present day, in the prologue.  This story revolves around a young teenager, Sarina, living in a small town in Sicily, helping to raise her siblings with her mother. She has done heavy chores since she was seven and endured countless beatings from her father. She prays by taking his abuse she can try and protect her siblings, he is a cruel and evil drunk. After tying her to a tree to spend the night outside after taking a walk on the beach, Sarina knows she has to get away. She starts by taking small amounts of money from her father's secret hiding place. She makes careful plans and is taking a bus to Taormina ( jewel of the sea)  and find work in the tourist hotels there. She runs away on her seventeenth birthday frightened that she might never see her mother or siblings again.  Her life and destiny await her.

Work is not easy to come by and her money is just about gone. A troupe of gypsies take her under their wing, teach her how to read Tarot Cards and encourage her singing.  These are skills she will build her life around.  At last, she meets and falls in love with an amazing young man......her Stella Mia.....her shining star; but it's a falling star.

Years later in Astoria, Julia Parletone finds her mother's diary. Her mother had abandoned her at age three and moved back to Italy. She is starving for information about her, but her father holds back. She is married, a school teacher and feels it's time to learn the truth. Her fondest memory is of her mother singing a beautiful song to her......Stella Mia.

This novel is a beautiful love story, mixed with heartbreaking cruelty and loss. The characters are so real, and the courage and strength of Sarina is amazing. I love Italy, but have never been to Sicily.  Ms. Chiolfalo's descriptions have moved it to the top of my travel list. I highly recommend this beautiful story, as well as her first two novels, Bella Fortuna and Carissima. The covers alone will draw you in.


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Pat received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for her honest opinion.

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Thanks for the review, Pat! :) What a lovely cover and beautiful story. You've got my attention! 

Have you read Rosanna Chiofalo before? 


Until Next Time,


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1 comment :

Anna@herding cats&burning soup said...

I don't remember seeing hers before. I love Italy too. What a great backdrop for the story. And when characters feel real like that? Love it. Thanks Pat!