I first came to appreciate Rosanna Chiofalo’s novels where she expanded upon her Italian heritage in Carissima. It was so comforting to read about characters who embodied traits of my own Italian culture, I eagerly picked up Chiofalo’s newest book, Stella Mia. This novel began when Julia stumbled upon her mother Sarina’s diary that revealed her turbulent youth in Italy. Julia eagerly read every word to understand why her mother walked out on her family in America when Julia was a child.
Reading this novel was like traveling through the Aeolian islands of Italy. Each town was described with details that made me feel that I was walking with the characters. The stunning settings were starkly contrasted by the dark life Sirena lived. I had no idea that her early childhood would be filled with so much physical violence inflicted by her father, a subject I really try to avoid in books. Sirena’s struggle to escape his tyrannical rule was admirable, but she came across as very childlike. The story was told through long portions that quickly summarized major events, which didn’t allow me to get invested in the story as much as I would have liked. The subplot, if you could call it that, was scarcely present and was nothing more than Julian interested in finding her mother.
I enjoyed the parts of the novel where Sirena found love. But later, the author tried to make a statement about female empowerment and making choices based on love that left me feeling conflicted about the ending. While some characters live happily ever after, their happiness came at the expense of others. The bittersweet ending was no what I would have preferred. Overall, this one was just okay.