The Girl in the Italian Bakery
Author: Kenneth Tingle
In some ways, The Girl in the Italian Bakery is an inspiring story of a boy with a troubled childhood who perseveres through more than any person should have to endure. On the other, it is highly indulgent, filled with excruciatingly detailed stories from Kenneth Tingle’s life.
But, oh the potential! There is so much sadness — and hope — in this book. When we first meet young Kenny, a boy of six, we learn that his family is barely surviving. His father is gone, one brother is mentally disabled, the other brother is in and out of trouble, and his mother isn’t able to make ends meet.
Kenny moves around from foster home to foster home, school to school. He is increasingly pulled in with the “wrong crowd.” His father denies him love and support time and time again. His best friend is mysteriously missing. And later, a teenaged Kenny is put in jail for drug use.
But Kenneth Tingle tells us these stories one by one as if in passing. It’s like a stranger is telling us “Oh yeah, that was the time my best friend was kidnapped… Anyway, let me tell you about my school again.” That’s not how we want to hear that story. We want to travel along with the writer, to hear how the story unravels. We want to see how it impacts life, or changes the neighborhood, or moves the characters emotionally.
Similarly the author has a bad habit of giving away the ending before he gets through the middle. For example, when teenage Kenny meets a girl, the author tells us right away that they end up dating for four years and fought the whole time. It comes as no surprise then, when they argue and break up a few chapters later. We didn’t care anymore.
I kept reading, waiting for the author to show me what this all means, why I should care. Surely the girl in the Italian bakery must mean something, help him through this terrible time. No, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Kenneth finds God and the Marines, both of which are credited for transforming young Kenny from a hoodlum to an upstanding citizen.
It’s impressive that Kenneth Tingle went from such a troubled childhood to a full-filling adulthood. But unfortunately this book does not do his life justice. I hope Kenneth Tingle tries to tell his tale again. I, for one, would read the rewrite.