Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story: A Novel by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story: A Novel by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Title:  Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story: A Novel
Author: Terri-Lynne DeFino
Publisher:  William Morrow
Genre:  General Fiction (Adult), Women's Fiction
Format:  Kindle
No. of Pages:  410
Date of US Publication:  14 February, 2023
My Rating:  5 Stars

My Thoughts 

Words cannot describe well enough how much this novel moved me, it was cathartic and heartwarming. I wholeheartedly adored Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story ❤️ From the first chapter, I was engrossed and charmed, tearing up and then laughing. I truly, truly loved Varina and her entire family, and I absolutely recommend this title.

While I do wish that some storylines had been more in depth, and with more of a definitive tie-up, this was still wonderful. It bothered me enough to point it out here, but not anywhere near enough to detract from my rating. 

The characters are so fleshed-out and realistic - I can’t get over how truly real these characters seem, they reminded me so much of my own crazy Jersey family - Varina Palladino could have been my mother - same age, grew up on the Jersey shore - we were also, in fact, Italian, we used to have holidays and Sunday dinners all together, with near constant utterings of “mangia, mangia!”.  My grandfather was a presence in town, an in demand stone mason, a weekly usher at our local Catholic church, a grower of wine grapes, a maker of wine, a maker of root beer, an award winning tomato gardener (his tomatoes made for the best rye toast, mayo, slice of tomato, with salt and pepper sandwich ever), he was a mensch, and an even more amazing grandfather than I could have dreamed up. Everyone knew and respected him and his family in the way only a small town can) he had been on the journey from southern Italy to a tiny town in New Jersey along the shore tucked away, hidden from everyone. He was born at home, and at more than 14 pounds, I feel for his tiny mother, whom I also have vague memories of - she was tiny, a wizened, old woman who had been through too much, always dressed the part of the Italian widow (which she was), she went to church (the same one my grandpa later ushered at) daily, and always gave me the cookies whenever I saw her - the ones that used to come in the blue tin (which was later often used as a place to keep crafting/sewing supplies, or at least it always was in my childhood). As a child, I always heard that we were related to every other person that came over from the same village in Southern Italy - I still think of people I have absolutely no relation to as my cousins. My Jersey grandparents are gone (my wonderful grandpa ‘22-‘03 and my daily missed grandma ‘26-’18), I no longer live in NJ and haven’t since my own children were babies, but this novel brought me all the way back and made me think of my family, immediate and extended. Thank you for that gift, Ms. DeFino.

As for me, I’m definitely planning on reading more of the author’s work and absolutely recommend this one.

Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for the DRC.


“Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story is fun and funny, wonderfully exuberant, and incredibly wise. These endearing characters—their voices and stories— will be with me for a long time to come. I didn’t want to say good-bye.” –Jill McCorkle, New York Times bestselling author of Hieroglyphics

An utterly delightful and surprising family drama—think Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding set in New Jersey—about a boisterous, complicated Italian family determined to help their widowed mother find a new boyfriend. 

Lively widow Varina Paladino has lived in the same house in Wyldale, New Jersey, her entire life. The town might be slightly stuck in the 1960s, when small businesses thrived and most residents were Italian, but its population is getting younger and the Paladinos are embracing the change. What Varina’s not embracing, much to her ninety-two-year-old mother’s dismay, is dating. Running Paladino’s Italian Specialties grocery, caring for her mother, and keeping her large, loud Jersey Italian family from killing one another takes up all of Varina’s energy anyway.

Sylvia Spini worries about her daughter Varina being left all alone when she dies. Sylvia knows what it is to be old and alone, so when her granddaughter, Donatella, comes to her with an ill-conceived plan to find Varina a man, Sylvia dives in. The three men of the family—Dante, Tommy, and Paulie—are each secretly plotting their own big life changes, which will throw everyone for a loop.

Three generations of Paladinos butt heads and break one another’s hearts as they wrestle with their own Jersey Italian love stories in this hilarious and life-affirming ode to love and family.


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