You can't always believe those Amazon reviews. Some people read Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists and decided it was just a bunch of stories about unlikeable people who do nasty things to each other.
Well, I don't know. I once read that an author doesn't have to make us like his characters. But he has to make us understand them.
I must have understood as well as liked Rachman's American expats, toiling away at a newspaper in Rome, because I eagerly picked up his book all week long, hungry for the next story.
It was the small crises in these lives that captivated me. Rachman wove stories about missing things--an office chair, a laptop, a Rubik's cube--that framed these ink-stained wretches' larger predicaments. There was the Italian matron who faithfully read every word in every paper. Trouble was, by 2007, she was only up to the 1994 issues. There was the Accounts Payable maven who flew to a board meeting at the Atlanta headquarters and, suffice it to say, should not have worn her granny panties that day.
So take those Amazon reviews with a grain of salt. And get your books from the library where, just in case you don't like them, you haven't sacrificed your lunch money.
Now, if you need a dinner break between stories and you're reading about Rome, you can whip up something vaguely Italian like --
We tried this once with the Italian vegetables and it did not sell well (lima beans anyone?). So tonight, I tried a frozen mix consisting of french-cut green beans, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. Looked to me like that pasta bowl emptied out pretty fast, and not just because people were eager to get to the luscious, bakery-decorated chocolate cake they had spied earlier in the kitchen.