Books Reviews

This Magnificent Dappled Sea

This Magnificent Dappled Sea by David Biro

Blurb: Two strangers—generations and oceans apart—have a chance to save each other in this moving and suspenseful novel about family secrets and the ineffable connections that attach us.In a small Northern Italian village, nine-year-old Luca Taviano catches a stubborn cold and is subsequently diagnosed with leukemia. His only hope for survival is a bone marrow transplant. After an exhaustive search, a match turns up three thousand miles away in the form of a most unlikely donor: Joseph Neiman, a rabbi in Brooklyn, New York, who is suffering from a debilitating crisis of faith. As Luca’s young nurse, Nina Vocelli, risks her career and races against time to help save the spirited redheaded boy, she uncovers terrible secrets from World War II—secrets that reveal how a Catholic child could have Jewish genes.Can inheritance be transcended by accidents of love? That is the question at the heart of This Magnificent Dappled Sea, a novel that challenges the idea of identity and celebrates the ties that bind us together. 
Thoughts: This book by David Biro explores relationships, family ties, religious roots, adolescence, adoption, abortion, terminal illness, and racial atrocities. Despite spanning continents and decades and touching upon historical events, such as the WWII Jewish Holocaust and the September 11 attacks, it is credible and realistic. The descriptions of the lives of the people of the small town of Favola, as well as the rabbi’s life in Brooklyn, are vibrant. Biro has crafted some wonderful characters whose interactions evolve seamlessly over time. The book is enriched by the relationship between Luca, his friends, and the imaginary character Orlando; the friendship between Samuel and Emily; and the respect that Rabbi Neiman, Father Lazzaro, and Imam Hussein share. Biro’s profession as a dermatologist has certainly helped in writing a well-researched medical tale. The medical terminology was not overwhelming and the historical storyline was quite interesting. The end is not satisfactory in that Luca does not feel a sense of belonging anywhere. I was also left wanting more information about Nina and Samuel, who I think changed the most during the story. One of the most interesting things about this book is its title. I initially thought it referred to the sea that separated Luca and the Rabbi. However, it does not. It refers to Dr Matteo Crispi’s thoughts: “In all these years, it never failed to amaze him, this magnificent dappled sea of bone marrow, ever regenerating and replenishing itself in an ongoing cycle that made life possible—red cells that carried oxygen to the tissues, white cells that fought off infection, and platelets that made the blood clot.” 

Note: I downloaded a free copy, in exchange for an honest review, from NetGalley when publicist Jennifer Musico brought it to my notice. Thanks to NetGalley and Musico.

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