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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Becoming Italian: Through Family, Food, and Life in the South by Bret Thoman is a travel memoir that chronicles the author's life in Italy. Thoman weaves the intricate threads of an experience that began as a way to find himself through his heritage. In the time spent, this foundational pull evolved into a full-blown Italian passion, for better or for worse. Thoman's retelling is comprehensive, witty, and enlightening as he describes a variety of experiences, such as the many lessons he learned the hard way when it came to Italian dining etiquette, the moment he truly became Italian following the birth of his third son, Michael, in Acona, and the unofficial religion of Italy after Catholicism: soccer.
Becoming Italian is a fantastic compilation of personal stories that are easy to read and take mere moments to elicit a laugh. I am a British man who married an American, and it was she who left her home country to settle in mine. She might not have had to learn a new language but my goodness did I see some of her in Thoman's words. My favorite chapter is Bella Figura, which doesn't directly translate but, in essence, means a life with beauty. Thoman recalls how the Italian emphasis on beauty is applied to all things, including both the expected and unexpected. However, so too does everyday decorum, and a birthday party for his daughter with a 'smash cake' went down like a lead balloon with his wife and mother-in-law. The photographs add to Thoman's words and connect the reader visually. I loved this book and am so grateful Thoman is sharing la dolce vita with us.