Short Story Fiction, 2010
The twenty-three stories in Lost Hearts comprise a rich and candid account of growing up and growing old in Sicily and America. The stories may be read separately, but they are also linked. Original Sin, the opening story set in rural Sicily in 1900, pushes a father-son conflict to its tragic conclusion. The protagonist, Peter Marino, emigrates to America, where his descendants – and especially his grandson, Charlie – experience the conflicts, hopes and the needs that add up to the human condition.
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
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EXCERPT: From the story, Eating in America
Straight for the carts Rose limped. She pulled one from the train and using it as a walker, hobbled into K-Mart. She started up the middle aisle and let the cart take her weight. Here were the carousels of shorts and sweat clothes, the glossy double knits, the Hanes and Fruit of the loom, cheap goods Charlie wouldn’t wear. She was supposed to walk every day to keep her ankle flexible, and the cart let her do it, a half hour, forty-five minutes, up and down the aisles, sometimes stopping at the sale bins, gloves for ninety- nine cents, thermal socks for a dollar-fifty, baseball caps and vinyl slippers, all of it garbage.
Sometimes she came upon people speaking Italian, and she would follow them. Occasionally they spoke her rural Sicilian dialect. She’d forgotten so much but would follow them through the store anyway, close enough to hear the familiar sounds and phrases. The language drew a tide of waking dreams, of her parents, of Hell’s Kitchen, when Hank was the hard working boy across the street who had no mother and came to their place to eat. She’d relived her life many times in the aisles of K-Mart, limping behind the shopping cart, the limp becoming less pronounced as her ankle relaxed.
She wasn’t bitter, not any more.
The Other Side: Growing up Italian in America
The Other Side is Vincent Panella’s personal journey, from rejection of his family to a realization that he cannot escape or deny his origins.
Santo Regina immigrates after taking part in a failed political movement incited by Vito Cascio Ferro, a figure historians describe as rabble rouser and member of The Black Hand. Once in America Santo becomes entangled with Cascio Ferro and his arch rival, Detective Joseph Petrosino of New York’s famous Italian Squad.