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Book review: 'The Witch of Belladonna Bay' by Suzanne Palmieri (w/event details)

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Suzanne Palmieri's 'The Witch of Belladonna Bay'

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Suzanne Palmieri has several local appearances scheduled to promote the release of The Witch of Belladonna Bay—including a book launch at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison tonight. Please see event details below.

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Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews The Witch of Belladonna Bay (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99) by Suzanne Palmieri.

This book marks the author’s second for St. Martin’s following her debut, The Witch of Little Italy (2013). Palmieri is also co-author of I’ll Be Seeing You and the forthcoming Empire Girls for Harlequin MIRA under the name Suzanne Hayes (with Loretta Nyhan). In addition to writing, she is an educator and makes her home in New Haven County, Connecticut.

As The Witch of Belladonna Bay opens, thirty-something photo journalist Bronwyn “BitsyWin” Whalen is called home—literally—after fourteen years spent running from Magnolia Creek, Alabama, following the death of her mother, Naomi. Bronwyn’s brother, Patrick (“Paddy”), has been jailed for the murder of her childhood girlfriend, leaving his eleven-year-old daughter, Byrd, in desperate need of guidance that her alcohol-dependent grandfather cannot provide. Upon returning to “the Big House,” Bronwyn finds that her sassy alter-ego “BitsyWin” is quick to reemerge—and that she cannot deny the magic of her ancestors nor the responsibility of endeavoring to exonerate Paddy.

As if that wasn’t burden enough, Bronwyn is forced to confront both her charming-yet-infuriating father, Jackson (who she harbors resentment toward for enabling her Opiate-addicted mother), and the love she left behind, Grant (who she suspects may be complicit in the crime) while forging a relationship with the niece she is just now getting to know. Despite their differences in age and life experience, Bronwyn and Byrd bond quickly, and the chapters that alternate between their points of view—occasionally interspersed with narration from Naomi’s spiritual self, which provide a necessary counterbalance to Bronwyn’s recollections of their complicated relationship—are gracefully and authentically executed, revealing as much about the other as they do about themselves.

While Palmieri’s debut celebrated her Italian roots, Belladonna Bay is an affectionate nod toward her Southern heritage, and its atmosphere—rife with humidity, deep-fried green tomatoes and crawfish, and glorious magnolia trees—is suitably palpable. While the story itself stands alone, Naomi’s ties to the Green and Amore families—and her gift of “the sight,” which Bronwyn and Byrd also possess—connect back to characters that return readers will recall fondly from The Witch of Little Italy. Further, themes of love lost and found, families broken and put back together, and self-discovery through journeying home continue to resonate deeply.

Suzanne Palmieri is an enchantress. In The Witch of Belladonna Bay, she deftly melds magic, southern Gothicism, intricate family dynamics and a well-crafted murder mystery that beautifully balances surprise with inevitability. Once under her spell, readers will find themselves turning pages well into the night—accompanied by laughter, tears, and that absolute need to know. Fans of The Witch of Little Italy will not be disappointed; while that book was remarkably accomplished in its own right, this one shows the true depths of her talent …

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With thanks to Nick Small, Publicity Manager at St. Martin’s, for providing a review copy of The Witch of Belladonna Bay.

The following is a list of Ms. Palmieri’s upcoming appearances:

Tuesday, May 13th – R.J. Julia Booksellers, 7 PM. This event is free; reservations are required and can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. R.J. Julia is located at 768 Boston Post Rd. in Madison.

Friday, May 16thMonte Cristo Bookshop, 7 PM. This event is free and open to the public. The bookshop is located at 38 Green St. in New London.

Sunday, May 18th – Stockbridge’s Gourmet Cheesecakes & Cafe, 3 PM. This event is presented by Written Words Bookstore. Tickets cost $30/person and include a copy of the book and full tea service. Seating is limited; reservations are required and can be made by calling the store at 203-944-0400. Stockbridge’s is located at 509 Howe Ave. in downtown Shelton.

Thursday, May 22ndBank Square Books, 12 PM. This is a luncheon event. Tickets cost $20/person and include a copy of the book, and include a catered lunch with white wine and sparkling water. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling the store at 860-536-3795. BSB is located at 53 W. Main St. in Mystic.

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