Monday, October 27, 2008

The Islands of Divine Music by John Addiego

John Addiego's debut novel, The Islands of Divine Music, was everything I'd hoped for and more. The book follows five generations of the Verbicaro family, beginning with the matriarch, Rosari, whose family is forced to immigrate to the United States from Italy around 1900 when she becomes indirectly involved in a kidnapping plot. Once in the States, she meets Giuseppe Verbicaro when he rescues her and her father after a riot erupts during a labor strike. They have six children and numerous grandchildren, but not all of them play a role in the story.

Each chapter is devoted to the point of view of one family member. My favorite chapters focused on Rosari and Giuseppe's son Ludovico, who gets himself and his brothers involved with a mob family. But the book really belongs to the family of their youngest son, Joe, who is embarrassed about his immigrant roots and especially his father's relationship with a Mexican prostitute, Maria.

Finding the divine in all aspects of everyday living is a major theme of the book, and this becomes obvious when Giuseppe takes up with Maria, believing that the baby she is carrying was immaculately conceived. Addiego includes chapters about Maria and Jesus, the supposedly divine child who leads a hard life after Giuseppe's death. Years later, Joe's son, Paulie, a disturbed Vietnam veteran, crosses paths with Jesus. Ultimately, Paulie and his brother, Angelo, search for Jesus in Mexico amid stories of Jesus' healing powers.

Addiego includes stories about other members of the Verbicaro family, including Rosari and Giuseppe's son, Narciso, and his incredible luck and Joe's daughter, Penelope, an anti-war activist. I won't go into more detail about these characters because they and their stories are so unique that you just have to read them for yourselves.

Addiego covers a lot of ground in The Islands of Divine Music. Not only does he touch upon the divine, the immigrant experience, and the impact of the Vietnam War, he also covers fears of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, migrant workers, and special needs children, among other things. But it never seems over the top. Addiego doesn't always present the history of the Verbicaro family in chronological order, but the story flows from the present to the past and from character to character seamlessly.

The writing is brilliant as well. There are no flowery descriptions; Addiego's prose is sparse, but he says so much. The chapters are like short stories, brief character sketches, and they would have left me wanting more had they not been stitched together in novel form. (And not wanting in a bad way. I just wouldn't want to be done with these characters so soon.) They were like opening a box of chocolates; you can have one and be satisfied, but it is comforting to know there are more waiting for you, and all together, they provide a rich, filling treat.

Read an excerpt of The Islands of Divine Music here.

The Islands of Divine Music also was reviewed by:

Booking Mama
Book Addiction
She Is Too Fond of Books


To celebrate the launch of The Islands of Divine Music, author John Addiego will be "stopping by" Diary of an Eccentric tomorrow to answer a few questions. I'll also be offering TWO copies of the book, courtesy of Unbridled Books!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of The Islands of Divine Music from Unbridled Books for review purposes.


bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

Great review!! I love books that are well written, and interesting as well, this sounds like an amazing read. Thanks for sharing it with us :)

Anonymous said...

I got this as an LT Early Reviewer book. Glad to see it's good.

Julie P. said...

Can't wait to read this one -- it just keeps moving up in the old TBR pile!

Serena said...

This sounds like another good read! I'll have to enter your contest to get my copy!

Michele said...

Okay, this one is definitely going on my wishlist!

Literary Feline said...

This does sound good, Anna! Onto my wish list it goes! I really like books that offer different points of view, I've found--at least when it comes to telling stories like this.

Jeannie said...

Very interesting book, Anna. Thanks for the great review.

The Bookworm said...

I'm glad you liked this one, I received a copy from librarything, i'll be reading it soon.
great review! very cool that the author is stoppinbg by tomorrow! I'll have to come and check that out.

Darlene said...

This really sounds good Anna. I love the cover. Glad you liked it.

Bookfool said...

Sounds utterly fabulous!!

Marie Cloutier said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. I'm going to stop back again for the giveaway!

Anna said...

Bethany: Glad you enjoyed the review. It was hard to put my feelings for this book into words because I didn't want to give away too much.

Bermudaonion: Can't wait for your review!

Julie: I'm looking forward to your review, too!

Serena: Please do! And if you don't win, you can always borrow my copy of course.

Michele: Great! I hope you get a chance to read it!

Literary Feline: I agree!

Jeannie: Glad you enjoyed it!

Naida: Wow! A lot of people got this book! I'm looking forward to your review, too!

Dar: The cover is pretty interesting. I was drawn to it right away.

Bookfool: It is!

Marie: Great!! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard about this one before. It sounds good. Great review!

Anna said...

Nicole: Glad you enjoyed the review! If you're interested in reading the book, please check out the giveaway posted on Oct. 28!

Shana said...

Anna, this book sounds wonderful. I really enjoy books that follow the lives of several characters throughout multiple generations. If done well, the reader becomes very attached!


Anonymous said...

Anna, I may have to declare November to be NBUB (Nothing But Unbridled Books) for me! Every book that comes out of that house gets raves.

The cover of *The Islands of Divine Musice* is eye-catching, as Dar said. I'm working with Unbridled on a post about the process of selecting cover art ... I believe they have the most gorgeous covers!

I somehow missed John Addiego's post ... I'm scrolling back up now ...

Anna said...

Shana: I love books that follow many characters over many years, and this one didn't disappoint!

Dawn: I agree that Unbridled Books publishes some great books! I have three more waiting in the wings!