…Cutter’s Island is a perfect, flawless gem, without a false note anywhere. In prose as spare as Caesar’s own, Mr. Panella makes surfaces reflect surfaces, with the sense of bottomless depths beneath. He packs more between the lines, and between chapters, than most writers deliver in books and books.
– Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire
…written in a pithy, vigorous prose reminiscent of Caesar’s classic style, Cutter’s Island summons up the violence, danger, and intrigue of the Roman world, investing events long past with a fresh sense of immediacy. Read Full Review
– Los Angeles Times
“It is like an epic poem. There is great complexity to the characters, which doesn’t always happen in historical fiction.” Read Full Review
– Charles Hix, Publisher’s Weekly
…the world was different then. If you want to find out how different and read a fact-based adventure story that puts breath and blood into ancient history, read Cutter’s Island.
Unlike many writers of historical fiction, the author doesn’t overburden his prose with period detail. Instead, through concise description and subtle inference, he allows the reader to construct the past in his her own mind. It’s not so much what he puts in but what he carefully leaves out. Caesar is the story’s narrator and his style in undeniably modern, but even so there are no anachronisms, no jarring notes. The reader is not cajoled, but lulled backwards in time.
– Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus.
Praise for Lost Hearts
I read with Vincent Panella back in December at IAM Books in the North End of Boston and bought his book. In all truth, I was not prepared for the powerful punch this book packed.
Lost Hearts is a spectacular short story collection mostly about the life of Charlie Marino, his boyhood, his coming of age, his intimate relationships, marriages, infidelity, Catholic guilt, aging parents, and so on. Panella captures the hungers, the idiosyncrasies, the food, the banter, and overall Italian-American familial allegiances and dysfunction in this collection. This isn’t The Godfather; this is raw truth about the mediocrities of Italian-American life in 1950s/60s Brooklyn and beyond and how one of our own makes his way into the world. In this collection, we witness deep human truths astutely expressed by a master of his craft. Panella can easily be compared to John Cheever or John Updike with his biting realism.
– Laurett Folk, semifinalist nomination and “Noted Writer” award from the Boston Fiction Festival and has been published in upstreet, The Boston Globe Magazine, Literary Mama, Narrative Northeast, Italian Americana, Talking Writing, among others.
Like pieces of a puzzle these stories long and short come together to give us a sense of baby boomer Charlie Marino’s cycle of life — as a child, teen, young — and aging adult. With grit and not without some joy, Panella renders old country and city life in telling detail that captures life yesterday and today. In many ways, these stories belong to all who came of age in the 1950s and 60s, those of us with immigrant roots, who made our own ways and now are helping our parents out as we usher grandchildren in. Whether in the old country, the old neighborhood, or the suburban oasis, the reader is always at home and on edge simply because we are in the presence of a master storyteller.
– Fred Gardaphe Distinguished Professor of English, Queens College, and Author of From Wiseguys to Wise Men
A former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, Panella has the gift of modern prose, sensible and direct. Lost Hearts . . . will find the reader wanting to step back in time, side-by-side with Panella’s characters, men and women that endear and repel us, that remind us of what it is to be an Italian-American. A fine collection of tales, written to the point of perfection by a true Italian-American, proud of his roots, warts and all, Lost Hearts calls to be included in every Italian American’s library.
– PRIMO Magazine
“A powerfully written suite of linked stories follows one family from an old-country Sicilian village to an Italian neighborhood in Queens. Former Newburgh resident Panella gets the period details and voices pitch-perfect. Read Full Review
– Chronogram Magazine
…..his Italian-American past still looms….large….”There are certain things you grind away at as a writer, that you can’t let go. You write because you don’t want things to die, even though they were painful. If you’re a writer, you can bring them back.” Read Full Review
– Amy Lilly, Seven Days
Panella has gathered the stories of his life in Lost Hearts in spare, artful prose that strikes universal notes. These are memorable tales by a masterful storyteller.
– Chard DeNiord, The Brattleboro Reformer
A memoir subtitled Growing Up Italian in America, The Other Side, with photographs by Susan Sichel, is a portrait of three generations of an immigrant family written from the perspective of one who bridged the two opposing cultures, worldly American and traditional Italian. This is a book of journeys: a family’s journey from southern Italy to Hell’s Kitchen and the New York suburbs and a young man’s journey to a sense of identity.
…A colorful, bittersweet memoir, a sensitive rendering of immigrant culture as found in one man’s family.
– Publishers Weekly
…Vincent Panella’s sad, harsh, but loving remembrance of his Italian immigrant family….is a personal journey. Like so many other third and fourth generation immigrant Americans, Panella knows his heritage only vaguely through Americanized clichés. He comes to understand himself, finally, by digging up the family roots.
– The Trenton Times
Central to Panella’s search for identity and self-knowledge is the haunting question of what cultural loss was accrued by these new Americans when they began to forsake their ties with “The Other Side,” Italy, the life-world of Naples and Sicily, for the streets of Manhattan, “paved with guns and gold.” For overshadowing Panella’s past is not only the gunman, the gangster with the violin case, but a people whose values were geared to “making it,” making it in the material American sense, making it with money alone.
– A. J. Montesi, St. Louis Globe-Democrat