Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Bella Fortuna by Rosanna Chiofalo

In Bella Fortuna by Rosanna Chiofalo, we meet Valentina DeLuca, the daughter of Italian immigrants living in her childhood home with her close-knit family and a community in which she knows most of those she sees on her walk from home to the wedding dress store she manages with her sisters and mother. Although at times the neighborhood and her meddling family can be overwhelming, Valentina actually flourishes in the familiar. When she is dealt a blow in the romance department, however, the familiar is what she wants least and she heads to beautiful Venice to heal and to explore.

Valentina DeLuca has grown up in Astoria, Queens -  a suburb of NYC with a strong Italian immigrant community. She is now engaged to her childhood crush, Michael Carello and is thrilled to be designing her own wedding dress after designing them for the brides who were customers of her family's dress store, Sposa Rosa. Her mother, Olivia,  is excited for her daughter and likes her future son-in-law but can't shake a nagging fear of the "malocchio" - evil eye.  She has held on to this fear of a curse of bad luck from her youth in Italy and constantly warns her three daughters of it and tries to ward it off any every turn.

Olivia is an example of strength for her girls - after immigrating with her husband and struggling to make ends meet, Olivia worked alongside her husband in their tailor shop and eventually transformed it into a bridal salon specializing in custom wedding dresses.  After her husband's death when the girls were still in grammar school, Olivia supported the entire family. Although she mourns her husband's death and misses him as she watches her daughter grow into young women, Olivia also has a tale of lost love back in Italy. She thought it was long in her past but a visitor to Sposa Rosa brings that past to her front door.

Valentina denies believing in the curse of the evil eye and sees it a an old wives tale; she laughs with her sisters each time their mother warns them of "malocchio" but when things in her life take a sharp left turn she wonders about those warnings.  She heads to Venice and looks to the beautiful city to heal her and most of all bring her some good luck - Bella Fortuna.

My Thoughts
Bella Fortuna is a warm novel with characters that you would love to have in your own neighborhood.  They were very familiar to me - like Valentina, I grew up in Queens in a neighborhood with many immigrant families - close-knit, hard working families. Almost 2/3rd of the book takes place in Astoria and the last third takes place in Venice; there Valentina's life moves in a new direction and I would have liked to see more of her new life.  Maybe in a sequel?

The book is largely Valentina's story although some chapters are told from Olivia's point of view and I found I really enjoyed her story and wanted to learn more about her first love in Italy.  And, of course, there is her immigrant story.  She recalls how she and sisters believed the streets of NY were paved with gold and her life would be charmed when she came there from Italy. They all coveted Noxema which was out of reach for them in Italy but it took many years in the US before Olivia could afford those blue jars.

If you are a fan of Adriana Trigiani's books, pick up Bella Fortuna!


  1. This sounds fun. Gosh I remember those blue jars! LOL

  2. You know I adore Adriana! I'll have to look for this one.

  3. Bella Fortuna is a great read! I have passed on my book to a friend and have told countless others to have a read. I to remember my mother using noxema in the familiar blue jar!

  4. It was fun to hear how this book ties into your childhood too.

  5. It sure is more personal when a book's setting is somewhere one is familiar with. It's interesting too to read someone appear so close to your neighborhood. Sounds like an interesting read. And NYC always remains an exciting place in my mind.