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Tempting Faith Dinapoli

by Lisa Gabriele

The opening chapters of Tempting Faith DiNapoli brim with bodily fluids – not surprising, considering that four of the main characters, Matty, Faith, Hope, and Charlie, are all under the age of four. Those fluids will eventually make a comeback in the ensuing teenage years of catastrophic first periods, drunken parties, and awful sex.

The narrator of this vivid, vital first novel is the eponymous Faith, although the voice that dominates the story is the beleaguered and belligerent one of her memorable mother, Nancy. Having married a handsome, unskilled Italian immigrant at 20, Nancy has been rapidly overwhelmed by serial motherhood.

Understandably, it takes a long time for her daughter (“Fate,” in her father’s fractured pronunciation) to find her own voice and her own way. At times the writing is rough and jagged, at other times poignant or hilarious, aptly reflecting the DiNapolis’ chaotic reality. A break with the Catholic church following an abortion and the move from Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood out to the country in search of a better life isolate the young family and strain a shaky marriage to the breaking point.

First-time author Lisa Gabriele’s background in television is well reflected here in her strong, sharply focused images, great dialogue, and ability to sustain interest in a plotline over the long haul of a novel. Tempting Faith DiNapoli comments shrewdly on the shifting North American social fabric, as a family’s hard-won foothold in the middle class crumbles, undermined by economics, geography, and often unwise personal decisions. Some might call those decisions mistakes, but Gabriele convinces us that love, courage, forgiveness, and sheer bloody-mindedness can go a long way toward redeeming them.