Kirkus Reviews: "Teasing and unpredictable."
Date: Aug 25 2009
Italian novelist Parrella makes her English-language debut with
four stories set in Naples, her hometown.
"Siddhartha" is the slight but engaging account of
rough-and-tumble life in a family business, a print shop whose boss does
time for mail fraud. Crime figures in three of the tales, and all but
one are narrated by women threading their way through a complicated
world. In "Run," Anna is a beautician living with Mario, a drug courier;
the unmarried couple have an eight-year-old son, Tonino. The story opens
with a precisely choreographed street scene. Mario is on foot, as is a
total stranger who's flush with cash. A motorcycle roars up; the
passenger stabs Mario in the back, then frisks him. An ambulance
retrieves Mario; the stranger follows it to the hospital, where he meets
Anna and Tonino. Mario dies; Anna is recruited into his business, gets
caught, does time. What's memorable is not the mess of intrigue
(Parrella omits two vital details from the opening), but Anna's blazing
devotion to her son. Complications of a different sort drive "The
Imaginary Friend." Marina, a museum curator, is married to a doctor;
their small daughter has a constant companion, the eponymous friend.
Marina has a long-distance friendship with Ernesto, another museum
official, in the north. Fantasy, it seems, is not just the prerogative
of children. Could this friendship be the "spare and exquisite" affair
Marina desires? Teasing and unpredictable, a delayed disclosure is as
important here as in "Run." The title story is less satisfying. The
nameless narrator is a shop clerk pushing 40. Years ago, her life was
transformed by her near-fatal decking of a young street thief who tried
to snatch her cell phone; it ended her relationship with her boyfriend
and the neighborhood. Here the postponed revelation seems pointless,
denying us a handle on the narrator's character. Piquant works in progress more than finished works of art.