Reviews

You don't have to be of Italian descent to be enthralled by this warm and rich family saga, filled with fascinating characters who will continue to live in your memory long after their stories are over. And, if you DO happen to be lucky enough to have "Nonnos" and "Nonnas" in your life, you'll never find a more perfect gift for them than Nonno's Monkey.

It's a beautiful book.

Lois Duncan, Author
Hotel For Dogs

Ché magnifico colto! A celebration of all things Italian. Isabel’s writing reawakened memories of the sights and sounds of my childhood. In her skillful hands I felt like a wayward daughter coming home. I laughed, cried, made meatballs and gravy, and toasted our passionate heritage with a fine glass of Chianti on more than one occasion.

Within the pages of Nonno's Monkey, I felt the presence of my own Nonno, and his son--my father. In my childish eyes they were enigmatic, distant men; bigger than life and never close enough. After savoring Isabel's intimate glimpse at her Italian immigrant family, working hard to achieve the American dream, I see with clearer eyes and love with a more tender heart.

Bella, avete reso il vostro nonno molto fiero.

Theresa Borghi Peluso
Figlia di John, Grande figlia di Carlo
Writer and Coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Soul titles published by HCI Books

The trick of writing a good memoir lies in the author’s ability to find the universal emotions and truths in the events he or she recounts. That done, the writer must next place his or her recollections into the contest of the larger world. A memoir meeting these requirements explodes into a dynamite read. Without them, it fizzles like a Fourth of July rocket dud.

Get ready for a big bang when you open “NONNO’S MONKEY AN ITALIAN AMERICAN MEMOIR” by Isabel Bearman Bucher. With a novelist’s sense of drama and story, she presents the lives of her mother’s family from 1800 in Northern Italy to the 1940s when she arrives on the scene in Connecticut.

NONNO’S MONKEY will literally set you roaring one minute and sobbing the next as you meet Angela, Isabel’s artistic and intellectual grandmother (NONNA), Isabel’s wine making flower-tending grandfather (NONNO), Aunt Mimi, Uncle De, Mamma, Papa, brother David, Zia and Zio (Aunt and Uncle), and Isabel herself. All have quirks, strengths and weaknesses that get them into --and keep them out of -- trouble on Indian Neck Avenue, Branford, Connecticut.

If Mamma doesn’t keep things stirred up trying to teach Mimi to drive; if Mimi isn’t trying to dye her hair, if Uncle De isn’t rescuing David and Isabel from some mischief. or pinching Mimi’s bottom, if Nonna isn’t cooking Sunday dinner, an ark full of animals keep the day interesting. Yaakie, the overweight Daschund gets stuck under a barn, Rusty, Aunt Mimi’s Irish Setter romps with the kids on the lawn, and the Hell Cat, Billy, spits at everyone but Nonna. Hens cluck and the rooster struts through the garden.

Chico, an ornery little monkey brought home by Nonno from the State Fair, flings china, steals ladies unmentionables off the backyard clothes line, ruins Nonna’s tea party by poking his head through a hole in the floor just as the ladies sit down, and swipes eggs out from under Nonna’s best laying hens.

Around such boisterous and bawdy, tearful and tender tales, Isabel Bearman Bucher weaves the emotions of a big close family working, fighting, and playing together, just as all families do. Whether Mamma licks her handkerchief and cleans Isabel’s face, (to Isabel’s disgust) or Isabel struggles to gag down anchovies during Sunday dinner, you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh my gosh, I remember how miserable my first day of school was,” or ‘Chico stealing the wine reminds me of the time our parakeet, Charlie, fell into Uncle Emil’s beer.”

Pictures of Isabel’s relatives going about daily tasks, recipes, quotes from Walter Winchall, and mention of popular songs place Isabel and her family into the milieu of America during World War II.

NONNO’S MONKEY is definitely a book to curl up with on a cool fall evening. By the time you finish the first chapter, you’ll be nice and warm, wrapped in memories of your own family,

Connie Gotsch
Imagination on Board
Author of "A Mouth Full of Shell" and "Snap Me a Future"

In this entertaining and insightful memoir, Isabel Bearman Bucher has captured the charm, eccentricities, trials, triumphs, and heart of a family--from her fascinating Italian ancestry through her captivating Italian-American childhood. La famiglia would be-a so proud, they would cry a-happy tears.

Colleen Sell, Editor
Cup of Comfort book series
Adams Publications

The personalities are so well defined, you the reader, will know them well. A smile from cover to cover.

Shannon, Isabel's neighbor for 10 years

I started your book yesterday and in no time it started me. I'm so glad its one of those books that will temporarily rule your life until you finish...read me, read me! README! NOWNOWNOWNOW!!!

I have laughed so much not just at the stories but at your storytelling! You are such a brilliant writer and your sense of humor is so refreshing! I also love the photos and am touched that in so many I can see the bonds between folks being clearly demonstrated. Ah, to be Italian.

Although I'm a voracious reader, it is rare that I come across a sentence or paragraph that grabs hold of me and demands to be read and re-read, paying homage to such a well-crafted use of words. Your book has a couple for me already and I'm only on page 122! Anyway, page 74 "These infrequent miracles mean you get pasted onto their fun like clothes to a paper doll." and then page 110 "And so, time after time, they pulled the knives out of their worried hearts, casting them away. But, the blades away slithered back, slit the skin of their breasts, re-implanting themselves down the deep scared pathways they greased with personal guilt." Ah Isabel - such beautiful sentences. Like a painting that so clearly imparts these shared life experiences.

And then the men! I suspect that's why I love the pictures so much. I think next time I'm in town you must introduce me to an available Giani or De Bernardi! ;-) Don't forget - I have always known I was going to be in a cabin/shack in Italy when I write the book. (Never been to Italy, have no burning desire...just an awareness this is what will happen). Most of the book is written - wrote itself actually. Now I just have to have the courage to relive it via editing.

C Cason - Oklahoma

The author has captured those childhood moments so well. I enjoyed reading about la famiglia, and of course, Chico’s exploits. I have tender remembrances of my grandmother and grandfather and aunts and uncles of that generation - sad/sweet memories. My last aunt from childhood days has passed away, so the curtain has come down on that era for me. One special treat for me was the poem to La Famiglia - p. 330:

Straining, swelling, enlarging,
I struggle upward to that inner place
Where all of you live in my soul

C. Lee - Ft. Lauderdale

I loved reading Nonno's Monkey.

Let me tell you why I found reading your book so pleasurable.

Not because it was so darn funny and made me laugh at so many whacky incidents or comments, not because it caused me to pretty introspective at places where I reflected on your observations about different situations, not because your beautiful words painted the most delightful pictures of a New England setting in another era, not because you and your kid brother David ,had the kind of childhood that most adults only wish they could have shared with you.

Isabel, I enjoyed all that, but what I treasured the most was the finely developed cast of characters and how they interacted and reacted to each other. I grew to know each of them. Not everyone has a family exactly like the DeBernardi's but most readers can relate to the characters and family dynamics within their own family.

I missed your family (and mine) when I finished the book.

H. Pugh - West Palm Beach

I have known Isabel Bearman-Bucher since I was a young mother with a toddler (I am now in my 60's) and she had two young daughters, a young widow herself. We were back door neighbors, sharing gardening tips and recipes. Even at this young time in both our lives, I saw creative avenues in her lifestyle that I never imagined before. When she began writing, I saw the zeal in her letters and in the short stories she wrote. She started small, and allowed her creative juices to build up to the point the volcano exploded into "Nonno's Monkey, An Italian American Memoir". What an artistic work this is, not just any story... but HER story. Not just a story about somebody's childhood, but her story of 1st Generation Italians getting accustomed to America: the American language, the American culture - but not forgetting the Italy that was left behind. Isabel's memories live forever not only in her own family's lives, but they will live forever in each reader's lives. The emotions run high in these Italians, and Isabel is keen to put you right there in the kitchen with her family ... in the countryside rounding up chickens or this crazy monkey ... or those tender moments she has next to the easel where her Nonna is painting. A brilliant work ... just brilliant!

J. Watkins - AZ

The personalities are so well defined, you the reader, will know them well. A smile from cover to cover.

S.T. - Albuquerque

Families... loving, funny, and at times infuriating. In Nonno’s Monkey you will get to know a fascinating, passionate, and talented Italian American clan. Through them, you will reconnect with your own, even if you don’t have a drop of Italian blood.

If you are an animal lover, the antics of Chico the capuchin monkey, Yaakie the dachshund, and Billy the cat, will make you smile. The author and her brother had wild adventures involving the family pets, and always the love shone through.

D. Bradley - Albuquerque

An outstanding story of a family and their high adventures in their new and chosen home - America

A wonderful and heart warming insight into the history, growth and strength of these people who came to the United States and made it what it is today.

We are so fortunate and owe them a great debt.

T. Shearin

This book is such a delight...there is humor and warmth in the strong memories of a family of all ages enjoying and accepting a new life and adding joy to hard work. Isabel and her brother had freedoms not possible today, but still cherished.here, and so well remembered.

E. Paak - Albuquerque

Hi Isabel,

My mom was in town visiting us. We bought her a copy of Nonno's Monkey because she started reading it and could really relate to all the characters. Her parents were from S.Italy (Reggio Calabria) and emigrated to Buenos, Aires, Argentina where she was born and grew up. In your book you talk about how many Italians moved to Argentina because Spanish was easier to learn than English. That was one of the reasons her parents moved there. She is also a water color painter like Angela. She eventually moved to the US (Trenton, NJ) to live with her uncle, Frank.

I hope you sell many books and that people learn about it. It's a great homage to your family and a wonderful story to read.

Marina - CA

I spoke to you before Christmas and was about to read your book. It was from my friend in Branford. I leave for FL tomorrow and when I come back we will go to look at the house where you lived. I thank you for writing your book. I can't begin to tell you how moved I was reading it. It bought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood. It helped me to understand some of the things I didn't catch in the chaos of family life. My grandmother had a farm where we spent many days and overnights. I recalled some long forgotten memories. It was great. I plan on doing a little more research on your site to learn more about my grandparents’ area in northern italy. They were from Arrunzo (Polenta) and just outside Venice. Again, many many thanks. I would love to meet you someday. You're family.

Mary Jane - Connecticut

This charming book starts off slowly as the family genealogy is established. It's worth getting through because when the storytelling begins, you're in for a delightful ride. Told from the view of young Isabel Miller, the stories are funny, sad, everyday, and extraordinary in this view of an extended American family is told.

There's Nonno and Nonna, emigrants from the "old country", fiercely Italian and planning on keeping their family that way in 1930's and forward "Hamerica" . Daughter Maria married non-Italiano, George Fisk Miller, and from that union came Isabel Miller, the storyteller of this book.

Nonno's Monkey is a picture of another time and place when extended family was the norm and the Italian (or Irish or German) was equally as important as the - American that followed the nationality. These people were fiercely American while holding on to where they had come from.

The thread tying together many of these stories is Chico, the monkey that Nonno won in a singing contest. Nonna was incapable of turning away an animal in need and thus, Chico became a fixture in the life of Isabel and her brother, David.

Far from angelic, Chico was tremendously smart. He had a way of working things through until he got what he wanted, be it eggs fresh from the chicken or opening the tap to the "vino".

Isabel's family is the kind you might wish you had been born into and her book opens the door to everyday life in a different place and time; a place where Sunday's meant starched white dresses and staying clean or weekdays when a stick horse could been your boon companion...and a way to taunt your little brother.

This is a recommended read to slow down the pace of your own frantic life for a short time. Enjoy it.

Sabra Brown Steinsiek,
author of Timing is Everything

 

I pick up Nonno's every chance I get. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS TERIFFIC
BOOK !!!!!! What a joy to read, Isabel.

Carol Ellis - Louisville, KY

 

Send your reviews to me at
nonnosmonkey@aol.com


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