by Camille Griep

As a concept, hindsight is a desirable thing. Just last month I asked myself what I’d done in a past life to deserve a pinched neck nerve, a tooth extraction, and a root canal all in the space of three weeks.

But alas, that old saw about being careful what we wish for is as apt for the protagonist of debut author Mindy Tarquini’s novel Hindsight as it would be for most of us.

See, Eugenia Panisporchi’s lives are unraveling. All of them.

Tarquini gives us a contemporary story, but with a twist. See, Eugenia knows about her past lives. They visit and haunt, vex and bother. Worse, she thinks she knows what’s what and who’s who, but she’s ever-so-unreliable, deftly ducking through relationships with friends, family, and lovers, ever sure of the outcomes. To say more about the plot itself might spoil the reader’s discovery of the twists and turns of Eugenia’s increasingly frantic efforts to set things right. However, there are car crashes and self-help groups, shifty plumbers and wartime passions, all served up on a steaming hot plot platter.

Here, Ms. Tarquini deftly romps through the ties that bind, the assumptions that gag, and the mistakes that haunt the human experience. What’s more, she provides readers with the opportunity to romp through a well-paced and cleverly styled story, and/or fall through the looking glass of carefully researched literature and history. Tarquini bucks cliché at every turn, and there are lines herein that will take your breath away when you least expect it.

Readers get a healthy dose of Italian-American culture in Hindsight, as well as religion and family dynamics. Tarquini also carefully explores the expectations of women and men in a modern world, including the ingrained impulse to protect one another as family and friends, despite the consequences. Readers are invited into Eugenia’s past hurts and regrets, where we are gently reminded there’s almost always more to everyone’s story. Tarquini presents Eugenia’s many lives in such a way that the speculative element offers the same safety as fantasy, but enough grounding in reality that the reader is able to stay comfortably on the couch.

I had the honor to blurb this book, and so I’ll leave you with my heartiest recommendation in the same words: With the wisdom of Chaucer, Kipling, and her Blessed Mary Keychain, Eugenia gives the reader a seat at her family dinner table where things are never (ever) as they seem. Tarquini’s rollicking prose wends the reader through a hybrid contemporary, historical, and speculative tale of karma, past lives, and the capacity to forgive and forget.

Equal parts tender and hilarious, Hindsight will leave readers wanting another meatball, another life, and whatever Tarquini serves up next.

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Camille Griep is the editor of Easy Street. Her most recent novel, New Charity Blues, was published in April 2016 by 47North.