Dancing Around Answers
Dancing Around the Answers
Some answers in life can never be found while others must be worked for. It takes determination and even a pinch of obsession to find some of the answers we seek in life. Even when we think our journey should be simple, it is not. We always regret that we never ask the right questions when it is too late. Is it ever too late to find the answers we seek?
History is full of both questions and answers. Everyone is affected differently by the events of history, swept up in it. All family histories are tangled together. Paul Paolicelli finds out just how entangled it can become in his book Dances with Luigi: A Grandson’s Search for His Italian Roots. In the book, Paolicelli decides to use some money he has squirreled away in order to find out more about his family history. Having missed the opportunity to ask about things at a younger age, he must search far and wide in order to find people and dig up clues. He aims for answers and finds much more.
Due to Paolicelli’s mission, the book spends most of its time on his reflecting on what he learns and where it leads him. As such, the reader is left with less information about Italy itself. This is much less of a travelogue than one might hope it to be. The author travels quite a bit over the three years in which the book takes place, yet we do not see as much as we expect. The nature of his search places us in many offices which contain records which are not the usual fair for sight-seeing. Paolicelli’s travels are not necessarily one we would likely find ourselves wanting to travel. However the fact that when dealing with government offices in Italy one is most likely going to have to deal with a lot of bureacracy. The author most likely wanted to convey this experience to others to be prepared for this when researching one;s family. Sometimes dealings with government offices in Italy can be stories unto their own, just not what we are expecting from a culinary travel book!
What also suffers a bit due to the author’s description is food. There are a few good moments in which we hear of one or two extraordinary dishes, but they feel like distractions more than anything. Foodies will be disappointed.
This is Paul’s story. His search is something almost everyone can relate to and since everyone is tied to history in numerous ways, we may find ourselves all the more wrapped in it. Because his family is entwined with the history of Italy, there are many historical descriptions that may especially be of interest to some readers. The level of interest will probably be related to a connection to one’s own family history. As with every other aspect of the book, it all comes down to how curious you are with his own personal family story.
Everyone has a family history, some are more complicated than others. What sets them apart are the characters. If not for Luigi’s character, this book would be lacking a bit. Somehow the author is not always able to keep it compelling. With Luigi, there is a bit more character brought to the proceedings. Paul could not do this dance alone. It just is not easy to dance alone.
This is a memoir before all else. It will appeal to most people in some way while others may feel they just do not relate to it in the end. However, I think the most important message we can take away from this book is that every family has its’ story and in order to understand our present, sometimes it is very helpful to understand our past. So however Paolicelli found his family history, kudos to him for finding and documenting this history.