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  1. Book ImageAn Italian Wife

    Ann Hood

    From the best-selling author of The Obituary Writer, the stirring multigenerational story of an Italian-American family.

Discussion Questions

  1. From her marriage to her emigration to America to raising her family, Josephine Rimaldi is not a person with a lot of choices in life. Would you consider her to be an unhappy person? Do you think she would consider herself to be unhappy? Has our definition of what happiness is, what choices a person deserves, and what makes for a meaningful life changed in the generations since Josephine’s youth?
  2. Describe the character of Elisabetta. Is her childhood ambitiousness a particularly “American” trait? How else can we tell that Elisabetta was raised in a different culture from her mother’s?
  3. Describe how the Rimaldi family’s relationship to the Catholic Church evolves from generation to generation.
  4. Do you blame Carmine for the hurt and pain in his relationship to Anna Zito? To what extent is his own naïveté an excuse? Describe how his experiences in World War One affect his feelings toward women. What is he responding to when he calls his sisters and nieces “puttanas”? To what extent is he a product of his time?
  5. Josephine loses a daughter. Martha loses a lover. Elisabetta loses her childhood ambition. Carmine loses his grip on reality. To what extent are Josephine and her children defined by loss? What do they find to live for in the wake of their losses?
  6. Compare and contrast Josephine’s actual affair with Tommy Petrocelli to her daughter Connie’s imaginary affair, which she only wishes she had, with Dr. DiMarco. How are the two women’s circumstances different, and how are they similar? What are both women trying to escape?
  7. We meet Josephine’s granddaughter Aida twice, once as a child in “Crooning with Dino” and then as a teenager in “The Boy on the Bus.” How can we see her growing up and coming of age from one chapter to the next? What does she learn?
  8. We see the Rimaldi family affected by three wars over the course of the novel: World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War. Which characters are affected directly, and which indirectly? Can we use this family and these characters as a lens through which to understand how each of these wars changed the country overall?
  9. What does it mean to be an “Italian wife”? Does the meaning of that moniker change over the course of the novel and from generation to generation?
  10. The novel ends in a far more sexually permissive culture than the one in which it begins. Nonetheless, are there parallels to be drawn between Josephine’s introduction to sex and love with her husband Vincenzo after marriage in Italy and her granddaughter Penelope’s introduction to it at boarding school?
  11. When and in what circumstances did your family come to America? Do you feel that you are in touch with your heritage? Did you—or did your parents or grandparents—make an effort to assimilate, like some of Josephine’s children did?
  12. In the novel’s final scene, Josephine and her lost daughter are finally in the same place at the same time. Josephine never knows it, although the reader does. What is unique about the reader’s vantage point in An Italian Wife? How would the novel be different if our perspective was tied to a single character?

About Ann Hood

Ann Hood is the author of eight previous books, including the best-selling memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief and best-selling novels The Book That Matters Most and The Knitting Circle. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Books by Ann Hood

  1. Book CoverThe Book That Matters Most: A Novel

    An enthralling novel about love, loss, secrets, friendship, and the healing power of literature, by the bestselling author of The Knitting Circle.More

  2. Book CoverComfort: A Journey Through Grief

    “Rarely do memoirs of grief combine anguish, love, and fury with such elegance.” —Entertainment WeeklyMore

  3. Book CoverAn Italian Wife

    From the best-selling author of The Obituary Writer, the stirring multigenerational story of an Italian-American family.More