Four Times Blessed is the story of Crusa, a young woman who lives closely with her large extended family, and is engaged to Andrew, a well-respected boy from her New England island, who falls for Lium, a bodyguard who is supposed to be watching her before her wedding. Her flawless life plan is about to go awry.
A sprawling tale focusing on Crusa’s aunt, who she refers to as her “ zizi” and the cooking and household chores as Crusa looks to form her adult life, this work is maybe a try at literary fiction.
However, without real arcs, as the writer tries to focus on relationships between characters, the writing doesn’t really gel the inner world of Crusa and the environment, for example the rounding given to the character of Crusa with her military training strikes as maybe an autobiographical detail, instead of suiting the theme of this book at all.
I would guess this is more YA than literary work – the character of Crusa seems sometimes too immature, and other times too grown up for the kinds of issues she faces – an often-common issue in so-called YA fiction. I didn’t find her particularly defined or interesting; she stands as more of a narrator, hidden behind first-person prose.
Liguori doesn’t really set the scene for the reader from the start. I struggled to grasp the many characters and the setting as I was launched into a cooking extravaganza for several pages at the beginning of this work. Which by the way, for me was much more interesting than the boy trouble.
Also, the narrative doesn’t flow as it should in terms of dialogue or description – for instance, a lot more could have been made of the setting of this book – a New England island (Long Island) sounds fascinating and yet I never felt close to it visually or culturally – instead I felt I landed without a map.
Characters also blend into one, and quirks in speech seem like dialect or colloquialism, unexplained to the reader. In Sebastian Junger’s New England-set “The Perfect Storm” for instance, the reader gets a real taste of salt in the gills from the sea and the characters who live in the port of Gloucester, down the coast from Long Island. I felt none of that reading this novel, and actually had a look at the island on Google to try and find some correlation between the writing here and the look of Long Island. It didn’t feel that texture was present.
There is however an unusual culture and family life here which piques interest, with some nice details Liguori obviously knows well, and these could be really fleshed out to give a much more intense, lively and personal experience. If this were more like “My Life in France”, or “Like Water For Chocolate”, i.e. a culinary/travel experience of New England clams, sauces and the sea with Zizi, I would have enjoyed it a great deal because when Liguori writes about preparing food with her family she shines. The old adage “Write what you know” couldn’t be more true than here.
At the risk of this review feeling like editor’s notes, it seems necessary to point out the subtitle is “Part 1”. As a reader this jars. I would prefer to see the author spend more time refining this book instead, and getting it to a more objective quality of writing, as at the moment, “Four Times Blessed” needs to come alive and find its place among the myriad of YA fiction books available today.