Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: 'Meet Me in Milano' by Mariuccia Milla

Author Mariuccia Milla is a citizen of both Italy and the USA. She was born in New York, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, and after college and a few years of work she moved back to her roots with a one-way ticket to Italy where she spent eighteen years in Milan working in architecture and interior deign. She moved to Tuscany, then Lago Maggiore before returning to the USA for graduate school. She now lives and writes in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, dividing her time between her homes in the US and in Italy. Her training in landscape architecture and interior design is the nidus for her stories that focus on the discovery of life and of self through connection with place and other people.

In this joyous book the author lets us know early on ‘Mariuccia Milla left New York City and her boyfriend behind at the age of 25 to find a job in the field of design in Milan, Italy. This fictional story shares that same beginning. She creates her image in the character Melinda as she departs for Italy – ‘Goodbye, she thought, to the morning subway ride into Manhattan with my nose in a book to avoid the overwhelming humanity. Goodbye to the pain au chocolat I bought every day at the coffee shop. Goodbye (and good riddance) to the construction workers and their lewd comments. Goodbye to my boss with her charming indecision, and her boss who stunk of alcohol after lunch. Goodbye to the ping and swoosh of elevators, and the polished terrazzo floors of lobbies. Goodbye to the Lever and Seagram buildings on Park Avenue, backdropped with a bright blue sky in the spring. Goodbye to the woman with the long white fox coat hailing her driver while a homeless man rummages through the waste container behind her. Goodbye to the Muenster cheese, lettuce, and mustard sandwich on rye, with a bag of chips, from the deli on 53rd and Lex (I will sorely miss you). Goodbye to the vaguely familiar people I kept running into at the gallery openings. Goodbye to the sweaty passenger pressed against me, dampening my blouse as the D-train crawled over the Manhattan Bridge on a hot summer evening. Goodbye to the golden late afternoon light on the Chrysler Building. Goodbye to the guy who adjusted my stirrups at the stables in Prospect Park and then gave me his business card: call me? Goodbye to picking up my laundry and finding the mother-of pearl buttons on one of my shirts substituted with plastic ones. Goodbye to walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, marveling at its web of muscular cables. Goodbye to freezing outside of clubs on Saturday nights, and the inhospitable ladies’ rooms inside. Goodbye to the thick and rich Sunday Times at brunch. And goodbye–whack–to soiling the back of my bedroom slipper with cockroach guts. Amen, she thought.’

And with that departure Mariucicia opens the gates to Italy and a story that is so rich in flavor and cuisine and relationships and yes, love, that make us all want to climb on board to Italy. As the brief outline states, ‘Melinda, a young architect from New York, leaves everything behind and goes to Italy to get a job in Milan, Italy’s design capital. She gains a mentor, finds new friends, and struggles with decisions about love. The women Mel meets, of varying ages, share their own struggles with their identity and their relationships. We encounter Milanese life, the Italian countryside, and the people, language, food, and culture of Italy – all in a manner that make us fall in love with love and all things Italian. More than a fine memoir, this is a Feste Italiane. Highly recommended on all levels. Grady Harp, April 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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