Rosanna Chiofalo

AUTHOR of ROSALIA'S BITTERSWEET PASTRY SHOP

Reading Group Guides...

  1. After Sarina runs away from home, she is torn with guilt over having left her mother and siblings behind. Do you believe she made the right decision in leaving her mother and younger siblings behind?
  2. Sarina goes from living an abusive, hard life in her father's house, to living an idyllic life in the coastal resort town of Taormina and on the magical Aeolian Islands, and her dream of singing becomes a reality. How do you think her life would have been different if she had remained at home and continued to be abused by her father?
  3. Sometimes Sarina feels that Carlo is being idealistic when it comes to their romance since they are from opposite worlds; he is rich and has had a privileged life whereas Sarina has only known poverty and hardship. Discuss the pros and cons of being romantically involved with someone who’s from a different social class.
  4. In Stella Mia, the author goes against the long-held stereotype of gypsies as thieves and swindlers by depicting Maria and her family of gypsies as honest and hardworking yet she also shows how people immediately mistrusted them. Do you feel gypsies have been judged unfairly over time?
  5. Sarina is intimidated by Carlo's father, Signore Conti, especially when she realizes he knows she has been seeing Carlo. Does Signore Conti intimidate Sarina so much because subconsciously he reminds her of her own stern father? Did she give in too easily to Signore Conti's demands that she leave Carlo?
  6. Paulie tells Sarina that America is a "land of no tears." What do you think he meant by this? Do you feel that many immigrants believed this before immigrating to America? For Sarina, America instead proves to be a land full of tears. Discuss the possible scenarios of what could have become of Sarina if she didn't marry Paulie and move to America.
  7. Why do you think Julia gave up on asking her father more about her mother, especially when she reached adulthood? Do you feel she was too harsh toward her father when she confronted him about Sarina's diary?
  8. How has Paulie failed Julia? How has he done right by her? How has Sarina failed Julia? Has Sarina done right by Julia by staying out of her life for so long?
  9. Are Sarina's motives for not returning to Julia valid? Do you think she deserves Julia's forgiveness?
  10. Toward the end of Stella Mia, Julia has a dream in which she is experiencing a few of the major moments in Sarina's life. It is as if she has become Sarina until the end of the dream, when it is then just Julia watching her mother climb higher, and away from her, on the grapevine. Did you understand what the author was trying to achieve with this dream sequence?
  1. Why do you think Francesca is obsessed with being adored by her public? Why do you think the neighbors in Astoria are so fascinated by Francesca, besides the obvious reason of her being a star?
  2. Do you think Signora Tesca was justified in holding a grudge against Francesca for all those years? How much do you think jealousy played a part in her refusal to talk to Francesca for so long?
  3. How was Pia's relationship with her late sister Erica different than Francesca's relationship with her sister? How have both of these women been influenced by their sisters?
  4. Compare and contrast Pia and Francesca. How are their dreams and goals similar? How are they different?
  5. We first meet Signora Tesca in Bella Fortuna. What were your first impressions of her in Bella Fortuna? Did your impressions change when you encountered her again in Carissima? If so, how? The same question for Antoniella. How have your initial impressions about her changed from the first book to this one?
  6. Francesca is infatuated with jewelry almost as much as she is with being loved by her fans. Why do you think she loves jewelry so much? Of the gifts that Rocco gives her, which was your favorite?
  7. Do you feel that Gregory's sudden discovery as an artist goes to his head? Why do you think many people become more self-absorbed when they find fame and/or success in their lives?
  8. Do you feel sorry for Francesca in the beginning of the novel when you learn that her five engagements never resulted in marriage? How has her decision to remain single shaped the person she's become? Do you feel sorry for her toward the end of the novel? Do you think she's grown?
  9. Francesca chooses to wear il lutto, the dress for mourning, after her sister dies. This custom has been losing popularity in Italy over the years. What do you think of it? Were you surprised that a glamorous star like Francesca chose to honor this decades-old Italian custom?
  10. How has Pia's trip to Rome changed her? Do you think she would have had the same insights if she had not gone to Rome?
  1. Do you feel that Valentina has truly been "cursed in love" as she proclaims in the opening chapter of Bella Fortuna? Do you feel that she's been unlucky in general in life?
  2. How is Valentina different from her mother in her beliefs of the mighty malocchio or evil eye? How are they alike in their beliefs of good versus bad luck?
  3. How does Michael fit the knight-in-shining armor stereotype where Valentina is concerned? Do you think that is a large reason why Valentina falls in love with him?
  4. Do you agree with Aldo's assessment that Valentina has put Michael on such a high pedestal and that no one can live up to such high expectations? Does that make it easier to forgive Michael's transgressions later? Do you feel that Valentina's expectations of Michael are unrealistic?
  5. Discuss the concept of "forgive and forget" and the pros and cons of either forgiving and forgetting or not forgiving and holding on to a grudge. Do you feel that Valentina is justified in her refusal to forgive Tracy when she sees her at her shop? Do you feel that Valentina was harsh? How might Valentina have handled the situation with Tracy in her shop differently?
  6. Valentina is close to her family. But we also see she has a special relationship with her neighbors and the people in her neighborhood. Which is your favorite neighbor and why? Which is your least favorite neighbor and why? Do you feel that the neighbors are an extended family for Valentina?
  7. What are Valentina's views on friendship with women? Do you feel that her views were shaped by Tracy's betrayal when they were in high school?
  8. Valentina and Aldo share a very close friendship and bond. How are they alike and/or different?
  9. For most women, weddings are a milestone, and they want their big day to be perfect. Do you feel that Valentina has placed too much importance on having the perfect wedding with Michael? Do you think Valentina is guilty of falling more in love with the notion of getting married than falling in love with Michael?
  10. What does Valentina's wedding dress symbolize for her? What does the dress symbolize for her mother? Do you agree with Michael after he has walked in on her gown fitting that she should drop the shorter front hem of her dress? What do you think are his real motives in wanting a more traditional dress for Valentina?
  11. Do you believe that Sonia, the teenage fortuneteller Olivia goes to see, truly has "the power?"
  12. Do you think it was wise for Valentina to go to Venice after her engagement to Michael is broken? How does the trip hinder her initially from moving on with her life? How does it help her to come to terms with what she's lost?
  13. How is Stefano different from Michael? Why do you think Valentina falls for him?
  14. After Valentina returns to New York and visits Tracy's mother, she learns that Tracy seemed to have changed her ways. Did you feel compassion for Tracy? Was it easier to understand her actions toward Valentina when they were in high school?
  15. What did you think of Valentina's enormous gesture of giving Tracy's mother her wedding dress? Do you feel that her action has truly brought her peace?
  16. Valentina regrets not having forgiven Tracy. Do you think she should have been more understanding toward Michael when he reveals the secret he'd been keeping from her? Why do you think she is not ready to forgive him? Do you think she ever will? Do you think they can ever be friends?
  17. How are Valentina's wedding plans to Stefano different from her plans for her first wedding? Do you feel that she's grown?
  18. What did you think of her choice in wedding gown to her wedding to Stefano? Did you like it more than the dress she was supposed to wear to her wedding with Michael? Which gown do you feel represented accurately who she was?
  19. How do Valentina's relationships with Michael and Stefano mirror her mother's relationships with her first love Salvatore and her husband Nicola? How did much did fate play a role in who they fell in love with?
  20. Olivia shares with Salvatore what Connie has told her about the Cherokee Indians' belief that each stage of our lives-childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age-is a different life, almost like a reincarnation. Do you agree with this Cherokee belief? How has Olivia reinvented herself in every stage of her life? How has Valentina?
  21. How have Olivia's views on bad luck changed toward the end of the novel? How have Valentina's changed?