Pigeon Soup & Other Stories, published by Inanna Publications and Education Inc., opens with a quotation from Charlotte Brontë: “The shadows are as important as the light.”
Author Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli adopts this phrase as a guide as she dishes up plenty of shadows including cultural and generational differences, gender expectations for women, and the experiences of Italian immigrants far from their homeland. Add in narratives relating to racism, bullying and sexual abuse familiar to all, regardless of background, and you might think the book would be a difficult read. But the author often lightens the dark themes with humour, optimism, acceptance and understanding.
Ms. Battigelli’s Italian heritage plays a significant role in the stories. And as you might guess from the title, she offers a culinary and olfactory feast that includes such delicacies as pigeon meat, sausage, and blood pudding. Throughout the book, food binds people together, heals wounds and comforts.
Characters are deftly described. In the eponymous story “Pigeon Soup,” the cabbie takes two travellers on a wild ride. A string of red peppers hangs from the rear-view mirror, and his grin exposes nicotine-stained teeth and one gold cap. To one of the passengers, the driver smells like “the shot his grandmother usually put in her morning espresso per rinforzare il cuore––to strengthen the heart.
In “Black as Tar,” a young boy notices the new kid across the newly tarred road. “He sat in between his mother’s potted geraniums like a garden gnome ornament: knees up to his chin, pixy face in his hands, a glazed look on his face and his mouth half-open.”
In “Francesca’s Ways,” the complexities of family relationships play out over an afternoon of sausage making. A young woman (Angie) steps in to help her mother Francesca make sausages, replacing her deceased father who used to fulfil this role. When Angie doesn’t fill the sausages like her father once did, she draws her mother’s ire. Francesca criticizes her daughter’s life decisions, and the daughter bristles even as she notes signs of her mother’s ageing. Like tying off the ends of the sausages, Angie works toward a subtle reconciliation:
"Angie watched as her mother placed the last sausage link on the table. For how many years had those hands performed this ritual? Forty, maybe fifty, first with her grandparents and parents, then with her husband. Now, even with the latter gone, Francesca still clung to the traditions. Perhaps they brought her solace, Angie thought, forgetting the criticisms and harsh words uttered earlier and feeling sorry for the lonely, embittered woman across from her.”
Many of the stories reflect childhood memories or are told from a child’s perspective, and the reader acutely feels the character’s pain. Ms. Battigelli adroitly tempers this reaction, however, as her characters find hope, generosity, and resilience. And like the pigeon soup that offers healing (and sometimes bones on which to choke), grandmother Nonna’s shawl wraps those who suffer.
Pigeon Soup & Other Stories is a new and compelling short story collection.
At three years of age, Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli immigrated from Calabria, Italy, to Sudbury, Ontario, Canada with her family. During her teaching career, she received four OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association) Best Practice Awards for her unique strategies in early literacy and other initiatives. An alumna of the Humber School for Writers, her writing has been published in nineteen anthologies. Her novel, La Brigantessa, published in 2018, won a Gold Medal for Historical Fiction in the 2019 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards. La Brigantessa was also a finalist for the 2019 Canadian Authors Association Fred Kerner Book Award and the 2019 Northern Lit Award. Her children’s book, Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round, was published in the fall of 2019, and she has published two novels with Harlequin UK (2018, 2020). She lives in Sudbury.
- Publisher : Inanna Publications (June 10 2021)
- Paperback : 80 pages
- Print : 978-1-77133-793-9
- ePUB : 978-1-77133-794-6
- PDF : 978-1-77133-795-3
About the Reviewer: Patricia Sandberg escaped a law career and became a writer. Her short stories have been shortlisted in competitions, published at The Cabinet of Heed and in the Lit Mag Love Anthology. She is hard at work on a World War I historical novel. Her 2016 award-winning, nonfiction book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake: Gunnar Mines, a Canadian Story is about life in a uranium mine in northern Canada during the height of the Cold War.