Published: 20 December 2020
Series: The Gelato Diaries
On vacation to Southern Italy with her mother, Gemma Wilkins, a singer who suffers from paralyzing stage-fright, learns a life-changing lesson in courage when she meets a tortured soul the British Tabloids have named The Sexiest Man in Italy.
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A Miracle in Monopoli was a joy to read. It was only short, so I read it cover to cover easily in one sitting, but I would happily have stayed right where I was if the book had been longer. Peter Palmieri drew me in with lush descriptions and evocative accounts of people and places, but what really held me was the humour and dry wit that was threaded all throughout the story.
Our two main characters are Gemma and Lorenzo. Gemma has gone to Italy with her Mum, Rosalie, who is on a mission to research her ancestors. And that is where they meet Lorenzo, who is the manager of the B&B where they are staying.
Gemma and Lorenzo are both fun characters. Gemma’s internal musings had me travelling from sad, to happy, to laughing out loud and by the end, mentally cheering. And Lorenzo is great, too. He started out with me thinking I wasn’t going to like him, as he was being rather unwelcoming to start with, but that didn’t last long. By the end, I was thinking of him as a total romantic.
And Miracle in Monopoli has such a fun selection of secondary characters! My favourite of the support crew is Gemma’s mum, Rosalie. She has perfected the art of ‘how to be an embarrassing mum’, without quite taking it too far. I love that she thinks nothing of sticking her head out of a car window and “shouting out a few choice words that would make a truck driver blush”, but then turns around and a moment later is noting (about Lorenzo, getting out of a pool in Speedo’s) that “it’s like someone got Michelangelo’s David and dipped it in milk chocolate”. She kept me guessing, so I never quite knew what to expect from her.
Peter Palmieri has a way of sneaking in unexpected little observations that add perfectly to the readers mental image of the scene being described, while at the same time keeping it very amusing. An example of this is Gemma’s mental assessment on her first sight of Lorenzo (who is wearing the aforementioned white Speedo bathers at the time). She admires his washboard abs, notes that his eyes look sad & his lips look full, plus that he has no “visible deformities” to his nose (because we all look for that, right?). But for me, it was all about her summary thought of “He was probably the kind of guy that obsessed over his cuticles.” I could totally relate to her assessment of a man that from her first impression, she expects to be vain. (She looks at cuticles – for me it’s eyebrows.)
Another example of a deceptively simple but totally clear image is the depiction of the Monopoli band being a ‘mish-mash’ of instruments, all dressed in something that “parking enforcement might wear”. Can’t you just see those dull coloured, shapeless uniforms now? And there is one more spot, courtesy of Lorenzo, that I found myself reading over again later, as it amused me so much. I can’t tell you too much about it without giving away any of the story, so I’ll just say to keep an eye out for Lorenzo’s offhand (but actually quite sad) comment about what he did that cost 300 Euros…
But underneath all the fun, this story has a heart, too. All of the characters are dealing with their own issues (I’ll let you learn for yourself what they are), but they are all handled gently.
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your afternoon, A Miracle in Monopoli is the way to go. But leave enough time to read the whole thing, because once you start, I doubt you’ll want to put it down.
Thank you to the author for my copy of the book in return for an honest review.
Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic city of Trieste, Italy, and returned to the United States at the age of fourteen. He left a successful medical practice to pursue two of his loves: crafting artisanal gelato and writing fiction. With his wife of thirty years, he owns and operates a popular gelato shop in central Texas. Peter is the author of four novels and one novella, with many more on the way.