Guest Blogger: Chris Manganaro shares a book review with us …
The world is filled with history and culture. There are an infinite number of things to see. No one can see it all before they die. It is just impossible to experience all this world has to offer. We have to settle for whatever we can get. We prioritize and sometimes we find that our priorities differ. For some people, their heritage is what is most important. This means that their travels will likely revolve around a specific place in the world. Even then, they may not be able to see it all.
In Mark Rotella’s book, Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria, we are introduced to Mark and his rather singular goal of seeing all that Calabria, Italy has to offer. Starting with his hometown of Gimigliano and spreading out in all directions, his attempts to cover every square inch of land in Calabria seems to be covered in this book. Only, he does not actually cover all this ground as even a small part of Italy can take quite some time to traverse. Either way, we find that his travels do not end with a turn of the last page of this book, that is merely the end of our journey with Rotella.
Now, as a narrator, Rotella may not appeal to every reader. Despite being with him the entire book, his personality really does not pop off the page. Due to much of the book being factual information about sites and culture, Rotella takes a backseat. He also takes a backseat to much of what is going on around him, especially when other characters are around. As such, when Rotella’s personality does come to the forefront, it is not always in the best sense. One such quality that appears many a time, is paranoia. Either way, Rotella does his best to keep the reader involved in some way.
As mentioned earlier, much of the book feels like a history book dedicated to Calabria. Like many of the people in Calabria, it seems Rotella was trying to write up his own history book about the region. This is interesting at times, but not always. It often feels like the majority of the book is historical versus anecdotal. It does not help that sometimes the anecdotes are short and relatively dull. Thankfully this issue is assuaged a bit by short chapters. Unfortunately, this also means that some places in Calabria are brushed over, reversing the formula of what is short and dry.
In the end, there are some good moments in the book, but these parts are not given as much room to shine as one might like due to what surrounds them. Rotella’s passion is there in the food, culture, and history of his home region of Italy, it just does not make the reader passionate as well. There are glimpses of more beneath the surface of this book, but we never get to see Calabria in quite the light that the author does despite his efforts. Or perhaps, we just miss it due to our priorities.
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Invitation..Saturday, December 8th from 12-3 PM Holiday Open House at Wendell August Forge in Exton, Pennsylvania. Join me for a book signing and sampling of some recipes from the Holiday Book. This event is free and open to the public! For more info go to www.wendellaugust.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org