There is a curse in the Fontana family. This curse has existed for over two hundred years and only affects second-born daughters in the family. The curse? Second-born daughters are doomed to go through life without finding lasting love. For some of the Fontana women, this is a tragedy and something that they are actively trying to change. Others say that they don’t believe in the curse, and their singleness is just a coincidence.
In this generation of Fontana women, there are two second-born daughters.
Emilia, an almost 30-year-old baker, likes her single life. She bakes at the family deli. She lives near other family members with her cat, has a male best friend, and occasionally writes pages of a novel that she doesn’t really intend on publishing.
Lucy, a waitress in her early 20s, is looking for love in all the wrong places. She’s determined to be the Fontana woman who breaks the curse, but none of her boyfriends stick around for long.
Both women are bewildered when their great-aunt Poppy (also a second-born daughter), invites them on an all-expenses paid ten day vacation to Italy. She tells them that, while they are in Italy, she is going to break the curse once and for all. But will she? Will any of these women find lasting love or will the curse win?
I noticed . . .
One of the things that surprised me most was that there are three main characters in this book (Emilia, Poppy, and Lucy), but only two of these characters have perspective chapters (Emilia and Poppy). Even Poppy’s are set in the past, meaning that this family novel is a very Emilia-centered novel.
I also noticed that a member or two of Emilia’s family treated her horribly. Even those who seemed to love her allowed it to happen. It’s like there is one character in this book whose opinions and emotions take on an outsized importance and everyone else is running around trying to make sure that this character is happy. I found this kind of triggering because it is similar to a family dynamic that exists in my husband’s family and has caused us great pain over the years. I found it tough to read without being angry.
I Wondered . . .
I wondered how it felt to be considered second-class within your own family. These second-born daughters are considered inferior to the other family members because of the curse. I wondered, even when I was not very far into the book, how much of the curse was simply a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It Reminded me Of . . .
Because it’s only been a month or two since I read Magic Lessons, I found myself drawing parallels between the two books. Both books involve curses that keep the women in a family line from being able to be happy in love.
I also saw some comparisons between this book and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In both cases, there are big families that are in each other’s business. There’s also, of course, romance in each. Also, both families are strongly tied to their immigrant groups in the United States (even though the Fontana family is Italian, not Greek). Unfortunately, the Fontana family is a kind of twisted, dysfunctional family, and not the joyful family of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
One Excellent Quote . . .
This book was very quotable. I stopped reading in several places and jotted quotes in my journal. The beauty of the writing and the well-drawn characters kept me reading long after I might have decided to put a book like this down.
Ultimately though, my favorite quote in the book is spoken by Aunt Poppy. She’s discussing the importance of personally experiencing all of life and not checking up and giving out. She says,
You will find, Emilia, life is not always a circle. More often, it’s a tangled knot of detours and dead ends, false starts and broken hearts. An exasperating, dizzying maze, impossible to navigate and useless to map.” She squeezes my hand. “But not a single corner nor curve should ever, ever be missed.
I think Poppy might be right. We should try to live life in such a way that we are left with no regrets at the end about experiences that we did not have.