Eat Now; Talk Later: 52 True Tales of Family, Feasting, and the American Dream by James Vescovi is one of the most unique collection of stories I’ve read in some time. Vescovi put together 52 short stories about his grandparents, Tony and Desolina Vescovi. They were born about 1900, grew up in Italian farming communities (that had not changed for hundreds of years), and immigrated to the United States in their senior years.
Vescovi collected many of the stories his father told him and over the course of his own life, and many of his own about his grandparents. He shared them with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers, and writes, “Largely, listeners enjoyed them-laughed, teared up, or shook their heads in wonder-because the tales had a universal quality about them.”
And laugh I did. It’s been awhile since I frequently giggled while reading on the bus, showing onlookers the cover to let them know what I was reading. Some stories made me tear up, as they brought to mind memories from my own family– like how I still miss my aunt and godmother, whose life sadly ended at age 30, due to a terrible car accident.
A few I even directly resonated with – like the story, “Il Wrestling,” which recounts how Tony and Desolina believed that “every punch, every face smash, every time someone was heaved out of the ring,” in those TV wrestling matches was real. This was exactly the case with my German great grandfather. James’ story took me right back to Grandpa John’s tiny living room in Waterford, Wisconsin, when even as a girl, I knew the wrestling was an act, but watched Grandpa John, who sure thought it was real. It was about the only time I heard this shy man talk- well, yell, rather! Now when it came to watching a man walk on the moon though, in his mind that was clearly a farce!
Vescovi organizes the stories by theme, which “represent the essence of who Tony and Desolina were and how they lived.” They range from tales about eating and food, to tales about his grandparents “misunderstanding of all things American,” and stories about his grandparents’ youth seen through visits he and his father made to where Tony and Desolina grew up.
The last section he calls “the beginning of the end.” It takes us to bittersweet stories about the last chapter of Tony and Desolina’s lives and their deaths. These made me look out the bus window and wonder what stories are to come with regard to my own aging parents.
With these well-written short stories, Vescovi weaves tales of loyalty, struggle, humor, misunderstanding, and love throughout. Don’t miss the pictures at the end. There are even a few of Desolina’s recipes to inspire you to cook real deal Italian.
Vescovi says he hopes that his stories will help readers recall reminiscences of our own grandparents and other family members that we can pass down in our own families. As my parents age, these stories inspire me to get down tales from my family, to be sure. But more, I turned the last page filled with the wonderful truth that no life, no person, is ordinary.
Eat Now; Talk Later is for anyone who enjoys real life stories written to touch our hearts.
It’s a great addition to the LiveTrue Book collection!