My friend, Chuck Miceli, offered me an advance copy of his new book, "Wounded Angels", available everywhere on 01-14-2020. (I'd previously reviewed his first book, Amanda's Room.) The following is my review!
Wounded Angels is the love story of Frank and Maureen Russo, two young people who meet and fall in love at a skating rink in New York City just before the outbreak of World War II. Maureen Bower is a product of the Great Depression, a young woman whose early life was rocked by the ruin and suicide of her beloved father. Frank is an Italian American whose great personal confidence is nearly broken by the horrors of war. They marry and are separated by war, then reunite after to form a family. Enduring the ups and downs of American life in the fifties and sixties (Vietnam enters with its usual tragic results), Frank and Maureen’s relationship deepens and develops over time. They move to Connecticut and look forward to a long, happy retirement when the worst happens: Frank unexpectedly dies of heart failure. Abandoned again, Maureen sinks into a deep depression that isolates her from her daughters and friends... She is lost – until she discovers an unlikely friend in spit-fire Doris Cantrell, a woman whose drifting, hard-loving lifestyle differs greatly from Maureen’s own. As their unlikely relationship develops, Maureen begins to wonder: is there life after death? Can the assistance of another wounded soul help her see through her loss to the life left behind?
Miceli’s story of love, loss, and recovery unwinds like a tale told during a long afternoon’s visit over a cup of coffee and the reader reaches the final page reluctantly, feeling as though they are leaving a new-found, long-sought friend. It is moving, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, and yet there is nothing truly remarkable about Frank and Maureen’s story. They are like many couples all over the nation: hardworking, loving, ordinary people leading ordinary lives with ordinary problems. And yet that in itself is the charm and the magic of this tale: it dives deep into the often overlooked lives of the ordinary and finds the extraordinary. Miceli’s light and often humorous touch is much in the manner of Erma Bombeck or Frank Capra and his world feels whole, real, and fully realized.
To quote “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Frank Russo may have been ordinary, but his loss gouges a deep hole in the lives of his wife, children, and community. As Maureen begins to heal, she learns that loss isn’t the end of the story. The end may also be a beginning. Wounded Angels is about imperfect people in an imperfect world, learning truths about love, loss, and beginning again. It will leave the reader satisfied and with a sense of hope, a truly fine story told in a loving, thoughtful manner.