I can’t imagine What’s Left, my new novel, without her aunt Pia – short for Olympia. She’s one of the characters created especially for this book, unlike the ones we inherited from the end of my first published novel, and she emerges as a parallel to Cassia’s father. At key points, they work together as a sharp creative team in the transformation of the family restaurant and its holdings.

If anyone could pose a romantic rival to Cassia’s mother-to-be, wouldn’t it be Pia?

She’s the flower child, the hippie chick, and then the earth mother – the height of femininity, from one of his perspectives. She also reintroduces Cassia’s family to its ethnic culture, especially the concept of kefi, or living with gusto (and much more). She’s the one the children naturally turn to for comfort or playful. And she has style to spare.

As Barney’s wife, she’s the queen of Mount Olympus, as his grandparents envisioned the neighborhood around their restaurant, and she assures that Big Pink, their big Victorian house, is hopping with action. He’s bound to be smitten. No wonder they provide Cassia with a half-dozen close cousins by the time her own father vanishes in an avalanche halfway around the globe. Up to then, what Cassia remembers is one big happy family largely revolving around Pia.

And then? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.


From Pia, her Baba learned the importance of what we’d call plating. The visual impact of each plate as it appeared on the table. She told him if a dish is colorful, it’s probably nutritionally balanced – something he confirmed from further reading.


Well, it comes back to food, doesn’t it! Even the simplest decision can be revealing. Is Pia a coffee or tea person? How about Cassia? How would they prefer it? Milk, cream, sugar? Mugs or cups? Saucers? And you?


City Diner, Metairie, Louisiana. By Infrogmation of New Orleans via Wikimedia Commons.

In my novel, the family restaurant could have been like this.


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