Full of Life

"Full of Life" is told in the first person by a character named John Fante. This is one of many details in which the character's life mirrors that of the author. But whatever the degree to which "Life" is autobiographical, this is a very engaging, well-written novel.

The story. The narrator is an Italian-American writer living in Los Angeles with his pregnant wife, Joyce. As the novel follows the course of Joyce's pregnancy, John deals with Joyce's shifting emotional moods, her growing interest in Roman Catholicism (from which John himself has fallen away), and termite infestation in the house. All of this is further complicated by John's problematic relationship with his father Nick, a retired bricklayer who isn't shy about sharing his own strong opinions about family life.

The style. This book is truly full of life: it is a richly realized blend of comedy and drama, and is peopled by a vividly realized group of characters. It is also a novel which really takes religion seriously, acknowledging both the emotional power and problematic nature of Roman Catholicism for many Italian-Americans, and ultimately a very moving story of family ties, and a noteworthy contribution to the multi-ethnic literary heritage of the United States.

By Michael J. Mazza (Pittsburgh, PA USA)
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