Preview review from Italian Americana, (academic journal)Spring 2009The Fiddle Case by Christine Palamidessi Moore. Boston:/IAP Press, 2008. 243pp.
In this coming-of-age story two nineteen-year-old women set out across the country in the summer of 1972, searching for answers about siblings they have lost. Their initial goal is soon overshadowed by the trip itself, reminiscent of Thelma and Louise. What begins as an upbeat adventure evolves into a dark thriller as they try to return a stolen fiddle to a cult member. The plot has many twists and turns, taking us across landscapes from Boston to Berkeley. The language conjures up images that titillate the senses: “sex was like a swirling tornado of white light.” Music of the time pervades; it is the driving force behind the road trip. References to politics (Watergate, Vietnam), to music (Beatles, B.B. King), to something as mundane as cigarette brands (low-tar Salems in Kentucky, Virginia Slims in California) convey larger meanings of the cultural background. The alliance between Anna and Cindy is central; other characters serve to illuminate their personalities or carry the plot forward.
Palamidessi Moore paints a convincing picture of the contradictions that women faced with the new sexual freedom of the 1970s. Although both claim to be liberated, Anna and Cindy argue over whether they are responsible for each other or should just allow each one to do whatever she wants at the moment. Anna has sex for the first time and Cindy complains about Bill who is twenty-eight while she is only nineteen. He asked what she wanted him to do in lovemaking. She was upset: shouldn’t he teach her something she didn’t already know? Aren’t men supposed to be the aggressors? Such paradoxes expose the dilemmas of the generation.
As with her first novel, The Virgin Knows, Moore weaves fantasy into the tale. The fiddle case exudes a flood of light and warmth when least expected, punctuating a closeness of spirit like that of trust or intimacy between friends. The relationship between siblings in both novels carries the resentment that one feels about the good fortune of the other. Considering the view that a novel should be like a street full of strangers where no more than two or three people are known to us in depth, Fiddle hits the mark.
There is little to identify the italianità of the novelist in contrast to The Virgin Knows, which moves from Rome to the United States and associates the characters with Italian culture on both sides of the Atlantic. But in The Fiddle Case Palamidessi Moore has left ethnicity behind to concentrate on details of American culture in the 1970s with its cults, folk music, and sexual liberation couched in an engaging, suspenseful story.
MARIE SACCOMANDO COPPOLA, PhD