Megan Harlan
November 22, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Blue Italian

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Rita Ciresi
publisher
Ecco Press
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B+

Wisecracking social worker Rosa Salvatore believes her husband, Gary, is having an affair: How else to explain his flagging interest in sex? That he actually has cancer — a diagnosis he keeps secret until the doctors are certain — is the tragic irony with which Rita Ciresi opens her debut novel Blue Italian. What follows are intimate flashbacks of the couple’s bumpy three-year marriage, stunted by their twisted family backgrounds — Rosa’s bickering working-class parents are ”coarse and bitter as coffee grinds”; Gary’s snooker-playing Jewish mother henpecks her successful husband. Stereotypes aside, Ciresi wields biting humor, tactile prose, and a three-hankie finale in this vibrant tableau of marriage’s imperfections and redemptions. B+

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