“Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees is a poignant portrait of an extremely dysfunctional southern New Jersey Italian-American family, and the attempt by the middle daughter to bring the family together for a celebration in the hope that they could extend the olive branch and make peace with each other and become a family. Thoughtfully written in the third person narrative, the author weaves a tale that deals with the dynamics of a family with a history of dysfunction that has completely shattered and torn them apart. The focus of the story is on twenty-three year old middle daughter, Silvia Greco, who vacillates between wanting to unite the family and wanting to escape from the dysfunction once and for all. With her life in limbo and unsure of what to do with herself, Silvia accepts the challenge to bring her family together for one night, which is no easy feat, it becomes her main purpose, and along the way it will provide healing life lessons.
The author has created a strong cast of characters who are realistic and complex people with personalities and issues that the reader can relate to, because the Greco family could be anyone's family members. Frank is the alcoholic father who is a distinguished local judge, but who also has a tendency to go off on rages. Then there is Donna the mother, she is a part-time college professor who finally has left her marriage after suffering years under Frank's abusive behavior. Oldest daughter Angie is her father's favorite of the children, but she broke his heart when she married a Wall Street financial investor and moved to North Jersey. She has a distant relationship with her mother and has a strained relationship with younger brother Cosmo. Cosmo is the second born child, he is brilliant but rebellious, an underachiever who is seen as a failure in his father's eyes. Then we have our protagonist, Silvia, the classic middle child who is the peace keeper of the family, yet she was the hyper child that just couldn't settle down. Finally there is the baby of the family, eighteen year old Vince, the soon to be high school graduate who will be attending UC Berkeley. Vince was the easiest and most pleasant of the children, the perfect child in his mother's eyes. When you put all these different personalities together plus add in the ethnicity of being Italian-American, it is no wonder that there is so much dysfunction and combustible tension in the family. I found these characters to be quite intriguing, their individual complexities along with their dialogue and interactions made the storyline a powerful and compelling read.
Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees is a story that will take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. The author weaves a tale that is a moving and realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional family with enough drama and humorous family situations that will keep the reader engaged and entertained, while providing a witty sense of humor and subtle messages of life lessons to extend the olive branch and learn to live, love and forgive.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review, and for hosting a virtual book event on my book review blog site.
“This is the perfect book for readers who love large Italian families and all the drama that surrounds them--This family puts the D in dysfunctional. The story was very enjoyable and dramatic, but it seemed there was some excess dialogue and side plots that just didn’t move the story along quick enough for me, but that might just be me. I would recommend this story to readers who love large families that thrive on drama with a little conflict thrown in.”Pat F. wrote this review Sunday, August 26, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No