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StarTribune Books: "The resolution of this hapless man’s life isn’t clear until the final pages, and the journey there holds both laughter and sighs"

Date: Apr 7 2015

My Mother-In-Law Drinks

By Diego De Silva, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar. (Europa Editions, 373 pages, $17.)

“Hapless” is a word that promises complications, evoking possible comedy but also the potential for uneasy self-reflection — for don’t we all fear that someone may, on perhaps not one of our best days, regard us as hapless?

Vincenzo Malinconico suffers such regard from his kids, his ex-wife, his girlfriend, his fellow lawyers, even from himself. He becomes a fulcrum in a bizarre stunt in which a grieving father turns a grocery store into an impromptu courtroom on live TV to avenge his son’s inadvertent murder by a Mafioso, which actually is comedic. When Malinconico’s growing sense of haplessness finally erupts into a duel of words that questions both justice and entertainment, the result is a provocative and funny rant that reflects upon how mass media shapes our lives.

This is a rollicking novel in unexpected ways. Malinconico’s internal dialogues are droll and maudlin, hilarious and touching. Texting, he says, gives the illusion of having all the time in the world to craft a perfect response, but that’s not true. “When you’re texting you feel all strategic, but you’re simply being impulsive in a whole new way.”

Translated from Italian, there are occasional references to Italian celebrities that mean nothing to most readers, but let it go. The resolution of this hapless man’s life isn’t clear until the final pages, and the journey there holds both laughter and sighs.

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