Fiction from Benford and Trigiani | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 19, 2017

Benford, Gregory. The Berlin Project. Saga: S. & S. May 2017. 480p. ISBN 9781481487641. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781481487658. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481487665. SF
Karl Cohen is working under Harold Urey as a physics research assistant at Columbia University, where their discoveries bring them into the circle known as the Manhattan Project. In this alternate history (illustrated with historical photographs), Karl, being in the right place at the right time, moves up the timetable on the making of the first atomic bomb. Rather than targeting the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the first “little boy” is deployed June 5, 1944, on Berlin. Physicist and best-selling author Benford (Timescape) keeps most of his narrative solidly grounded in historical facts but not overwhelmingly so, and his engaging and compelling characters (all real people) are easy to connect with. While pondering what might have been, this insightful work provides a sobering look at how fragile the whole process of building an atomic weapon really was.
Verdict Providing plenty of detail without slowing the story down, this title is recommended for an audience that enjoys alternate history with a solid grounding in reality.—Mark Hanson, Maranatha Baptist Univ. Lib., Watertown, WI

Trigiani, Adriana. Kiss Carlo. Harper. Jun. 2017. 544p. ISBN 9780062319227. $27.99; pap. ISBN 9780062660527. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062319241. F
Trigiani’s 13th adult novel (after All the Stars in the Heavens) is set in early 1950s Philadelphia and follows the lives of two families, the Palazzinis and the Borellis. The Palazzini brothers, Dom and Mike, each run a cab company but do not speak to each other owing to a feud. Curmudgeon Dom is tempered by his sweet wife, Jo. Their three sons and their wives and Dom and Jo’s nephew Nicky Castone also live in the family home. In the same neighborhood, Sam Borelli and his daughter, Calla, struggle to keep their small theater running. Nicky moonlights as a stagehand and affectionately spars with Calla. Things get a little crazy when Nicky breaks up with his fiancée and flees to Roseto, PA, to avoid her murderous father. A series of events involving both families and a cast of affecting secondary characters drive the narrative. While this may sound like a drawing room farce, the humor and heart of the story shine through.
Verdict Entering the world of the Palazzinis and the Borellis is like taking a trip to a simpler time when families still lived, loved, and fought together, bound by tradition and affection. This truly pleasurable read will strike a chord with fans of Fannie Flagg. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/17.]—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY

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