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Advice for Italian Boys by Anne Giardini


Advice for Italian Boys by Anne Giardini

Advice for Italian Boys is the second novel by Anne Giardini. Her first novel The Sad Truth About Happiness was published in 1999. I thoroughly enjoyed that book and was hoping that the second would be as good. In fact, it is even better.

This is the story of the Pavone family - grandmother “Nonna” Filomena; mother Paola; father Massimo: and their three sons Enzo (Lorenzo) the eldest, Niccolo, and Enzo (Vincenzo) the youngest. The family has come from Italy to make their home in Vaughan, a suburb north of Toronto. They are a lovely family – genuinely loving, caring and respectful of one another.

Our hero is Niccolo, who works as a personal trainer at Caruso’s gym while taking a university course. Niccolo meets his friends on Saturday mornings at the Vaughan bakery; a close-knit group of young men who have known each other since public school. They talk about sports, cars, and the neighbours, who is getting married or divorced. Niccolo is a thoroughly nice guy, lives at home, enjoys his job, doesn’t have a lot of ambition. Everyone else thinks he should have a girlfriend but Niccolo is not in a great rush. It is Niccolo, in his own quiet way, who looks out for the family as the others go about their busy lives. Nico is also the one who finds the most comfort in his religion, in the certainty of the teachings of the church “to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly, to comfort the afflicted, to pray for the living and the dead; to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, to bury the dead.” Niccolo sincerely attempts to live his life in this way, with thoughtfulness.

Filomena is aging, and often falls into reverie about her life as a young woman in Italy, lovely memories kept alive, and shared with the reader. One of the Enzo’s is getting married the other is in law school, their parents still vey much in love dance quietly in each others arms when they return from mass each Sunday. We are engaged with the lives of the whole family as we join them at a wedding shower and other events in their lives.

This is truly a lovely story of a very nice family. The writing is engaging as is the story. I think in these days of such media doom and gloom, we need books such as this, to restore our faith in humankind and the fact that there is reason to be comforted by what is really important in all of our lives.

And what is the advice for Italian boys? It is Nonna’s advice “Fai l’arti chi farai. Si non ricchisi, campirai. Do the craft you were meant to do. If you don’t grow rich, at least you’ll live.” 

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