Tempting Faith DiNapoli
by Lisa Gabriele
(Simon & Schuster, 2002)
Nancy Franco finds herself pregnant at nineteen, she marries
her Italian immigrant boyfriend, Joe (Giuseppe) DiNapoli,
and plans to have four sons: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
But the second child is a girl, so she revises the plan
and decides on having a Faith, Hope and Charity. Until the
fourth baby is a boy, leaving her with a Matthew, Faith,
Hope and Charlie.
Faith DiNapoli longs for a "normal" family, but
instead she has a trio of rowdy siblings in hand-me-downs;
a feisty mother who drinks and smokes and is better at speaking
her mind than at fitting in; and a distracted and heavily
accented father who is covered in plaster from his construction
work and often absent at extra shifts so he can "pooda
food on da tabe."
As a young child, Faith is convinced that the church is
her ticket to normalcy. She can imagine nothing more wonderful
than a first communion dress and is certain she would like
to marry Jesus. When Faith's mother decides she no longer
wants anything to do with weekly mass (or the other way
around), Faith worries that Mom is on her way to hell, and
vows to pray double for her. But by the time she's reached
high school, in the grand tradition of Catholic schoolgirls
across North America, Faith has broken almost all ten commandments,
and teeters somewhere between geek and slut.
At times the novel reads like "Are You There, God?
It's Me, Margaret," with it's bathroom jokes and frequent
(sometimes hilarious) mention of boobs and maxi pads. Gabriele
is adept at using a young person's slang and cutting humor,
and at capturing the unfairness of the adult world from
a kid's point of view. The novel's light, chatty voice makes
it a breezy read and a good choice for poolside or bedtime.
This is a debut that's smart but not overly clever, ironic
or self-conscious -- a refreshing alternative to some of
its loftier neighbors on the new fiction shelves at Barnes