All This Talk of Love

  • 2013
  • Algonquin
  • ISBN: 978-1616201708

A New York Times Editors' Choice

A modern Italian-American family plans a visit to their ancestral village as each of them comes to grips with the past—and the inevitable future

It's been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena Piccinelli and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers—everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Maddalena, after decades in America, sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out.

But Prima, her daughter and first-born, was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches a romantic plot to take the entire family back to Italy—hoping to let her parents see their homeland one last time and reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their trip home becomes a necessary journey.

All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.

Other editions

All This Talk of Love has been published in translation in Taiwan (China Times Publishing Co.) and Italy (Newton Compton Editori). A large print English-language edition is available from Thorndike Press.


Read an essay Christopher wrote about the inspiration behind All This Talk of Love, the final installment in the three-book "Maddalena" trilogy.

Listen to Christopher read from All This Talk of Love at the 2013 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, courtesy of New England Review.

Reviews and Praise

"This is the third book Castellani has devoted to the Grassos, a series of novels that with their mellifluous, gently satirical style and dark, elegiac heart, form something of an opera buffa of the immigrant experience...In the Grassos and their multilayered conflicts, Castellani has created an answer of sorts to Gay Talese’s observation, 20 years ago in these pages, that no serious Italian-American writer has achieved the popular stature of a Scorsese or a Sinatra. Talese described Italian-Americans as the descendants of a people “united in the fear of being found out.” Italian-Americans were steered away from academic tracks, he argued, and then for decades even literary-minded Italian-Americans like Talese got a cold shoulder from the publishing establishment. Castellani hasn’t written the big, defining, Scorsese-scale novel Talese was missing...but he has elegantly captured the essence of Talese’s argument. Maria Russo for The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

" and entertaining....Castellani juggles multiple stories and characters with remarkable deftness, never striking a false or forced note. His evocations of the love between parents and their adult children, the bittersweetness of age, and the ambivalence of immigrants toward their old and new homes is nuanced and original.

"All This Talk of Love will, no doubt, invite comparisons with Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Both novels are family tales told in shifting, close third-person perspective, centering around a contentious family reunion. Some will see All This Talk of Love as less ambitious than Franzen's work. But perhaps Castellani's novel just announces its ambitions more quietly than Franzen's did. The suspenseful plot of All This Talk of Love, its delicious readability take nothing away from its emotional depth and power." Suzanne Koven for The Boston Globe

"[All This Talk of Love] is, in my view, an American masterpiece, a tenderly ruthless examination of the bonds of family, the ways in which love perseveres in the midst of insoluble grief and complex regrets. I read the book in a kind of frenzy, feeling all the while that exquisite stab of envy that overtakes us when we feel our own talents eclipsed, and our hearts enlarged." Steve Almond for The Rumpus

"Castellani writes movingly, affectingly of immigrant life, of the dichotomy of cultures, of the persistence of love across generations." Kirkus Reviews

"At turns funny and tragic, Castellani's third novel... recalls similar contemporary family sagas, such as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, but is far less cynical. Literary scholar Frankie reviles sentimentality, and the author manages to stop short of it while still making the story emotionally resonant. This reviewer defies anyone not to fall in love with the Grassos. Recommended." Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis for Library Journal (Starred)

"In his long-awaited third novel, Castellani (The Saint of Lost Things, 2005) plumbs the depths of intricate family life and comes up with realistically complex characters, funny quirks that make utter sense, and an examination of the bonds that can both compel and repel....Family histories and secrets reveal themselves a wisp at a time, layered into the story with sugar and plenty of spice by Castellani's evocative writing." Booklist

"The final installment in Castellani's Maddalena trilogy is his best yet. This is an instantly engaging and authentic story about a multigenerational Italian-American family planning a trip to their ancestral village. Love, resentment, deception, and tenderness—all the complexities of a family in love and in conflict are handled with beauty and precision. There is not a single false note in this moving novel by a very gifted and assured writer." Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT, for Indie Next List

"Castellani has hit his writerly stride in exploring the hopes, wishes and dreams of an Italian-American family...A lovely and loving story of an Italian-American family, not far from their roots, coping with loss, old myths and memories." Valerie Ryan for

"Christopher Castellani's third novel... illuminates the sources and results of human feeling. His complex characters prove how deeply and expansively moral people think about their lives...A riveting portrayal of a decent family spinning in a vortex of love, loss, hope and memory." Katherine Bailey for Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"[A] tender and evocative story that coveys both comedy and tragedy in a remarkable novel about what it means to be family... Drawing on his rich understanding of both Italian culture and the mechanics of family, Chris Castellani paints an incredibly moving, tender and textured portrait of the many generations of the Grassos and the ties that bind them. [P]erfect for anyone who has tried to hide a secret of the past or has left a part of themselves in another place. The book deals with the feelings and emotions that are brought to the surface when revisiting what has been left behind." Italian Tribune

"[A]s moving a rendition of the losses and discoveries of old age as I have ever read." Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children

"The many faces of home, all of them dear, all of them hard-won, all of them so complicated and confusing and beloved, lie at the heart of this tenderest of novels. If there is a better book about what it means to be in a family, I haven't read it." Stacy D'Erasmo, author of The Sky Below

"Castellani has a steady, sustained belief in the goodness of the human spirit. To be able to convey both comedy and tragedy in a single novel is a remarkable gift." Anita Shreve, author of Rescue

"[A] nuanced and powerful depiction of loss that takes its place among classics. This unsentimental novel lays bare the complexities of human longing in taut, lyrical prose....literature of the highest order." Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi