synopsis

Synopsis of a novel adaptation from a true story written by Bruno Iannone © 2022

What does it mean to be living at home as a young adult with a traditional set of parents, two older sisters, a brother-in-law, and very young nephews during the late 1970s – mid 1980s?

Anthony “Tony” Marlino, a twenty-five-year-old, first-generation Italian American navigates his dream of turning his passion for poetry into a fully realized venture leading to publication and personal success.  

Tony’s passionate about life, wants to experience it fully. The novel covers the latter part of the school year at Johnson Tech, the most challenging high school in industrial Jardine, where Tony works as a hall guard along with his best friend, Gino Aldese, a twenty-six-year-old Newark State College grad and also a first-generation Italian American. At five eleven and two hundred twenty pounds, Gino’s an outstanding athlete and one of the strongest power lifters in the state. And his other two friends: Larry Meldon, a twenty-six-year-old African-American, and former standout linebacker at Jardine High, who attended Temple University on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in Physical Education, and Angel Soto, a twenty-seven-year-old Puerto Rican, a graduate of NYU, who worked as a social worker for ASPIRA, a Hispanic youth leadership development group, for two years in Jardine, and is trying to get into the school system as a Biology teacher.

The reader steps into an urban setting and patrols classroom conduct along with the four hall guards, monitoring the attitudes and behaviors of students, teachers and staff, as well as bearing witness to some stark revelations.

This setting is a backdrop which has Tony coming to terms with two teachers he has befriended:  Clara Saunders, the idealized new love of his life, and Roberta Larson, the other intriguing woman of interest who becomes a source of temptation.

The unfolding amorous relationships at Johnson, as well as other humorous sexual trysts that engage Gino and Tony, strongly emphasize Tony’s conflicted personality – his struggle with intimacy and the pulling and pushing of his needs and desires which expose a murky morality, and a precarious faith in love’s capacity to endure and flourish at the very altar his words, his poetry, his idealism worship.

Where the Heart is Warm is the true story (with some fictional elements) of Anthony “Tony” Marlino, and the challenges he faces living at home with very traditional parents, Anthony Sr., and Maria, two older sisters, Gemma and Lina, his brother-in-law, Joe Morrisey, and very young nephews, Bryan and David, which exacerbates his guilt and rationalizations of being separated from his wife, Anna, and his ten-month-old daughter, Chiara, whom he loves dearly.

Tony brims with a romantic/idealistic nature which seeks and gravitates to so much of Where the Heart is Warm: He celebrates the potency and resonance and expressiveness of words.  He loves competition, especially in basketball, where the excellence he developed as a teenager led to an athletic scholarship to college and an opportunity to play in the Italian Pro League – and how his need to excel is invigorated each time he plays, now, at the Jardine Y or at the Rec Center downtown.  And Tony revels grueling workouts in the weight room that test his strength, his resolve to satisfy some measure of control over his physical self.  He savors sexual gratification he has earned through giving voice to those spontaneous feelings that arise when in the aura of a potential seduction. 

Tony values the cohesiveness, the fundamental anchor that is la famiglia with all its tempests, honesty, unabashed discordance, and unwavering love. He loves music and the rapture it unleashes – its tantalizing lyrics and rhythm and melody seeping profoundly into the possibility of what can be imagined.  And Tony gravitates towards laughter and the company of true select friends – the camaraderie, the similarities, the differences – all ingredients of joviality, of clashing egos, and the irony, the bawdiness, the rambling unbridled testosterone.  And he relishes that suddenness of awakened consciousness igniting those precious, yet fleeting moments of living in each inspired breath, catapulting his dreams, his uncompromising celebration of being as it lunges toward what can be achieved.

Where the Heart is Warm weaves its way through pertinent songs identifying the era as the very late 70s to mid 80s, and doing so, the novel explores a compelling collage of pulsating material:  family dynamics, uninhibited sexual gratification, loyalty and fear and selfishness and duplicity, the exuberance and grace of untainted love, chunks of laughter, of sensuality, of sadness, of hope and need for forgiveness – a provocative tapestry of life’s facets in all their nakedness… 

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