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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Review: The Second Date - Love Italian American Style

Author: Mary Lydon Simonsen
Genre: Fiction, romance
Book Source: from the author
Trade paperback, 166 pages

From the author's website:

Sonia Amundsen looks like a Nordic goddess on the outside, but her heart, soul, and stomach are all Italian. She is also a successful professional who is about to celebrate her 30th birthday. Although friends have been setting her up on blind dates for two years, she never goes out on a second date with any of them because she is still looking for that perfect guy. The problem is that she has very specific criteria as to who Mr. Right is. Sonia is beginning to think that such a man is not out there until....

Set in the late 1980s, Sonia is surrounded by an extended Italian family, a caring, but over-bearing mother, warring aunts who use family funerals to stage full-blow tragedies, and a close friend, whose main goals in life are to get pregnant and to help Sonia find true love. The Second Date explores friendship and love in the heart of the Italian-American community where food is second importance only to love.

My Thoughts:

This book is much more than Sonia having trouble finding a good guy. This book perfectly describes the Italian-American community of first and second generation immigrants. I should know since I am Italian and grew up in such a neighborhood.
My Grandmom had the plastic furniture covers, parties were held at the Knights of Columbus club, and although other ethnicity's were eventually welcomed, it was hoped Italians married Italians. That's just way it was, and it was the same in the Irish neighborhoods too. As the generations pass, these ways of life have changed, and you won't find too many people with kitchens and living rooms in the basements any more. As matter of fact, the feeling of community that is so prevalent in this book, is starting to disappear as well. Times change.

As she did with Searching for Pemberley, Simonsen seamlessly weaves the characters back stories and other fascinating tidbits into the story. Yes, Italian families still have tons of drama and are emotional, but the core value of family is always there. Your family may not approve of your private life, but they will always love you and do anything for you. Most Italians never forget where they came from either, and maybe that's why we still have our festivals and make big pots of gravy and meatballs every Sunday. (Gravy=sauce in my part of town.)

This was a wonderful little story, and the 1980s setting made me laugh at times. Sonia and the rest of the characters in the story are all sweet in their own way. They may even remind you of people you know yourself. Simonsen is quite good at making the reader feel like a part of the story. You tend to forget where you are, or at least I did. Overall this was a fun and engaging read which brought back a lot of memories for me, including flocked wallpaper and crushed velvet furniture. Oh, don't ask.

My Rating: 95/100

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Reading Romance

Disclosure: I read this for pleasure and my opinion was not influenced by the book's source.


Darlene said...

Great review Jen. This sounds like such a good book and I love that it's set in the 80's. I see that you're having a giveaway as well so I'm going to hop on over to that.

Blodeuedd said...

This book does sound great.
So the plastic cover that I saw in The nanny is true, interesting

Anonymous said...

This sounds fabulous to me and you gave it such a high score!

Mary Simonsen said...

Jenny, Thank you for the lovely review. I'm very glad you enjoyed the book, esp. since you are an Italian-American. These stories come right out of my high school years (in the 1960s) where most of my friends were of Italian descent. I loved the vibrancy of their families (as well as their food). B/c of this book, I just got a call from my h.s. history teacher who I hadn't spoken to in 40 years! This book was a pleasure to write. Thanks for reviewing it.

Nise' said...

Sounds like a great book and one I would enjoy as well! My sister-in-law is Italian and I know that of which you speak. I love, love her family and not just for the food! LOL

bermudaonion said...

Sounds good. My mom grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood like that, so I think I could relate too.

Jinx said...

Great review! I love reviews where the reader relays their experience in reading the book without giving it all away.

This one sounds like a great read!

Michelle Santiago said...

sounds like a lovely, wonderful story jenny! i enjoyed reading books that showcase the family (and its "craziness") and culture and it's that much more better if you can relate it to your life. i'd love to read this one day. great review!

Mary Simonsen said...

I really believe that you could substitute most ethnicities for the Italian families in my book. In addition to having a lot of friends of Italian descent, I had many Jewish friends, and they had so much in common. As one of my characters in the book says, "With the exception of the advantages of Italian food over just about everything else, Jewish people and Italians are basically interchangeable" (paraphrased). Mary

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