It's hard not to see Tempting Faith DiNapoli as a response to Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women. Both books recount the youth and adolescence of girls growing up in southwestern Ontario: their familial troubles, cultural awakenings, and tentative encounters with sex. While Munro's Del Jordan is a sprightly, liberated, intellectual postwar teenager, though, Gabriele's Faith DiNapoli is morose and troubled. Faith is the third of four children in a struggling working-class family, and she lives a sad, disjointed sort of life. The DiNapolis are uneasy about nearly everything--their marriage, their children, their Catholicism, their bank statements. Faith embraces all of her parents' worries and embellishes them with troubles of her own: a shoplifting habit, a fondness for booze and soft drugs, a painfully low sense of herself, a series of crises of faith, and, worst of all, a morbid redneck sexuality in which intercourse is synonymous with date rape.
Gabriele's account of Faith's childhood is the strongest part of Tempting Faith DiNapoli--she has a keen eye for the kind of cultural detritus that can perfectly encapsulate a character. Once she moves into Faith's teenage years, however, the novel loses much of its momentum. That may be inevitable, since Faith leads a chaotic, aimless, almost shapeless life, and Gabriele's only fault lies in following this form too closely, leaving readers longing for the directed teenage rage of a book like Mary-Lou Zeitoun's 13. Tempting Faith DiNapoli is a promising debut, but Gabriele hasn't quite mastered the trick of keeping her readers enthralled by a life that even her protagonist isn't too crazy about. --Jack Illingworth
Faith DiNapoli is the well-meaning eldest daughter of a dysfunctional Italian family living in 1970s Canada. With an absent father, three rambunctious siblings, and a mother who's trying to make the best of the life she's got instead of focusing on the life she wanted, young Faith takes it upon herself to assume religious responsibility and tries to be "good enough" to make up for the flaws of her whole family. She struggles between the person she is and the perfect one she wants to be, and it ultimately takes a test of faith for her to find self-acceptance and her place in the world. Gabriele, a Canadian Lifesize TV executive producer whose work has been published in the Washington Post and Nerve magazine, has written a poignant, memoir-style debut novel that is emotionally intense and ultimately satisfying. Recommended for public libraries. Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.