Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other’s lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.
Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who run the restaurant; recently-widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.
Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.
I always seek out an author’s forward, if there is one, before start into a book. It often gives me insight into the writer’s mindset when laying out their story and characters, even the inspiration behind the origins of the tale. In this case I got that and more.
J. Scott Coatsworth’s love for his adopted city of Sacramento, the River City of the title and setting here, is deeply established and he lets us know exactly why it’s so ingrained that its almost a living character here in The River City Chronicles. Close behind it? Coatsworth’s love for Italian language which he speaks and teaches, Italian cooking, and the style and format of ‘Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City.
The author has gathered up all these elements, given them a mighty swirl, tossed together with his own marvelous imagination and a dose of magical realism and come up with The River City Chronicles by J. Scott Coatsworth. What a magical heartwarming glorious blend it is!
It all starts off with Matteo and Diego, a married couple recently arrived from Italy. They’ve reopened a restaurant where one of their relative’s old Italian restaurants was but the new one isn’t being received very well. It’s called Ragazzi, meaning ‘the boys’. But a bit a magic is about to happen when one gets the idea for a cooking class that brings in an odd mixture of people in various stages of their life and circumstances.
The very idea of a cooking class, one where you can almost smell the ingredients, plunge your hands into the dough, get wafts of the aroma of vanilla, the heat of the ovens…its a experience that just conjures up memories. Which is exactly what the author does here with vivid descriptions and later on wonderful recipes you will be jotting down to try. It, the preparation, the cooking, the memories and yes, perhaps the magic, start to intertwine these peoples lives and ours until I was barely aware of the time going by outside of the story.
And oh these people, because that’s what they became to me. Each person, each couple, carrying their troubles, burdens, voids in their hearts where children or family should be, others looking for love or asking for the approval to move on with their lives to love once more. All the characters here are so beautifully created, so multidimensional that they are all on equal footing. Each and every one is so important to the story and will gain equal measure in your heart. It’s a large cast but it simply doesn’t matter. You invest yourself completely in their lives and their stories. You hurt with them, you laugh with them…the entire spectrum of emotion will be trotted out here between the kids thrown out of their homes to the May/December romances and so much more.
The River City Chronicles is a rich tapestry of lives…messy, complicated, wonderful, human lives. It’s filled with love, cooking, Italy through the language and recipes, and the singular location of Sacramento. And I can’t get enough of it.
I want more of it.
Like visiting that restaurant you have picked out as yours and visit over and over because the food is perfect, the atmosphere warm and welcoming, the people inside familiar and everything about the place makes you anticipate an evening that will fill your heart with love and memories. That’s how The River City Chronicles makes me feel as well. I hope that J. Scott Coatsworth feels that there’s more tales to tell here. I certainly hope so. Raguzzi is doing so well, so are the cooking classes. Who knows who will show up next? Scott, are you listening?
Trust me, this book is magical. I highly recommend it.
Cover art is beautiful. It’s dark, magical an lovely. I love it.
Kindle Edition, First, 380 pages
Published May 30th 2018 by Other Worlds Ink
ISBN 1732307513 (ISBN13: 9781732307513)