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Palermo Story

by Gabrielle Marks

Elegant in the telling, rich in detail, Marks’s debut brings the city of Palermo and its inhabitants to life in a novel that blends an exploration of the complications of love with an homage to the Sicilian capital. Like a painter, Marks begins with sketches of her characters before moving on to full-color portraits. When Paola, a housewife and native Sicilian, has her wallet stolen on a bus, the theft has unexpected ramifications. A man named Dante finds the wallet on the street, and Paola dispatches her husband, English ex-pat Nick Stirling, to pick it up. At Dante’s house, Nick meets the gorgeous Lea and is instantly smitten. He and Paola are unhappily married (she suffers from hypochondria and whining), and Lea’s relationship with Dante is growing stale. As Nick and Lea fall in love, family dramas form the backdrop of their passionate affair. Nick’s son and daughter begin to express independence his daughter, for instance, wants to drop out of university to travel and Nick and Paola struggle to come to terms: he supports their autonomy, while Paola, who is afraid of losing them, tries to hold them back. Menace comes in the form of a nameless Mafia thug who collects protection money from local businesses, and one owner in particular defies him. Readers will be able to sense that something tragic is going to happen, and that one of the major characters will be involved, but Marks will keep them guessing. Meanwhile, in the ancient city, “everything will go on as before,” as people “fall in love… write books, kill one another, take buses.”