Book Write-Up: Return to Bella Terra, by MaryAnn Diorio

MaryAnn Diorio.  Return to Bella Terra.  TopNotch Press, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

Return to Bella Terra is the third book of MaryAnn Diorio’s “Italian Chronicles.”

I am wondering how to dive into this review, so what I will do first is offer a brief summary of most of the main characters.

Maria: Maria is the main character.  She lives in Brooklyn.  She immigrated to there from Italy.  Hearing that her mother in Italy is sick and that the family land, Bella Terra, may be sold, she returns to Italy.

Nico: Nico is Maria’s adult son.  He was conceived as a result of Maria being raped by a priest, Don Franco.  The result was scandal in Italy for Maria and Nico, who was deemed to be illegitimate.

Don Franco: Don Franco is a priest, but he worked for Maria’s family at Bella Terra.  Don Franco teaches school.  After the rape, he sincerely repented and was transformed by Christ.  He desires a relationship with his son, Nico.

Luca: Luca is Maria’s husband and Nico’s step-father.  Luca feels a call from God to be in Brooklyn, where he believes that he has a mission to preach the Gospel.

Valeria and Anna: They are the daughters of Maria and Luca.  They are happy and fun-loving kids.

Sofia: Sofia is Nico’s newfound love-interest in Italy.

Teresa: Teresa is Sofia’s mother.  Teresa and Maria have a difficult past because they competed for Luca.  Teresa reminds Maria about Maria’s scandal.

Eva: Eva appears to be an old woman, but she is much more than that!

There are other characters, too, but these were the ones who especially stood out to me.

The book had its share of positives.  Its prose is beautiful.  MaryAnn Diorio teaches people how to write, and this book convinces me that she is qualified to do so.  The book has a few theological-philosophical tangents, as Don Franco discusses with his students the question of whether people can transcend themselves and their own perspectives.  The book gets into the characters’ reflections.

I liked the first half of the book more than the second half.  The first half was setting up the story and highlighting the characters’ struggles.  The scene in which Nico goes to Italy and sees the dog he left behind as a child was heartwarming.  The second half of the book tended to dwell on the same issues in the same way over and over.  The struggle was prolonged, but the solution, when it did occur, happened really quickly and, perhaps, superficially.  There was some confusion on my part: Maria wanted to return to Bella Terra to save it and to live there, but her husband does not want to do so.  Meanwhile, Maria does not want Nico to move to Italy and marry Sofia because she fears that she will never see him again.  These problems somewhat overlapped, and they tended to undermine each other: if Maria moves to Italy, and Nico moves to Italy, then they can be with each other.  Of course, Maria was unsure if she would be able to move to Italy, but my point is that these two struggles occurring together was rather awkward.

The book ended beautifully, however, with a reflection on the Kingdom of God and the absence of rifts that will exist there.

I am open to reading the other books of the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash.  My review is honest.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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