Tina De Rosa - Paper Fish

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Hard work, but gratifying...

May 9, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Beautiful language, moving story

Cons:Non-linear timeline, can feel like it's a lot of work to get through.

The Bottom Line: Can feel like a lot to get through because of it's language and heavy use of imagery, but it was worth it. Most beautiful book I've read all year.


I think it is safe to say that this book is a bit unknown. I’d never heard of it myself until I took a class on Italian-American studies. Still, I chose to read this book because I was lazy and it was the shortest of the books listed. I figured it would be a quick and easy read. Little did I know, this book was not going to let me off the hook so easily.

The story itself is rather simple. Through a non-chronological journey, the reader learns about the life of one Italian-American family’s struggles as their ethnic neighborhood in Chicago is slowly destroyed by urban renewal. While the story mainly focuses on the youngest daughter Carmelina and her experiences, you also get other background stories like that of her grandparents and how her own parents fell in love. Carmelina runs aways when she discovers her parent’s plan to institutionalize her mute and emotionally troubled older sister, Doriana. Through this story you learn about a child’s relationship with her own cultural background.

What makes this book special is the language. Nothing is simply said flat out, instead this book reads like one long poem. Instead of telling us about the family’s struggle to maintain their relationships as the neighborhood falls apart, DeRosa tells us through the actions of her characters and the abundant use of imagery. The imagery both mirrors the crumbling and decay of the neighborhood as Carmelina’s love and wonder she feels as she views the world around her. At times the imagery can feel almost overly dramatic, but it also feels necessary to match the emotion of the characters and the story.

My only critique of this book is how difficult I found it in the beginning. The vivid descriptions can be beautiful and accurate, but also a bit tiring and confusing. It can be hard to tell when things are really happening or simply metaphor. Thankfully, as the book goes on, the many pieces of the story finally come together and begin to makes sense. By the last chapter and epilogue, I was really moved by the story and the love that the author put into this book. It was definitely worth the work to get there. This novel should get the attention it deserves.


Recommend this product? Yes


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