Honey Fasinga has returned to her New Jersey hometown at age "eighty plus a dash of salt." She wants "to finish things. Make amends." Honey is stylish and smart, and her admission that "[n]ostalgia [is] a lying serpent" doesn't suppress her appetite for life.

As the daughter of a mobster known as the Great Pietro, Honey--born Ilaria Fazzinga--knows where three bodies are buried, including one that's in her nephew's backyard. She left home at 17 but now, with ample funds from a successful career at a high-end Los Angeles auction house, Honey has been drawn back. Her parents have long ago used their "first-class tickets to Hell," but her nephew Corrado's family obligingly welcomes her, especially her grandnephew Michael, who asks her for money and discovers that Honey's wise friendship has much more value. Honey's sophistication and long absence spark resentment from some old friends, notably those jealous of her rekindling a romantic flame and savoring "what we can salvage now, at such a late hour." Although her droll wit eludes her naïve neighbor Jocelyn, their friendship bolsters the young woman and provides some of the novel's funniest dialogue.

It's easy to forget that it's Honey's "late hour," as her unsentimental, glass-half-full (preferably of Viognier) perspective welcomes new experiences while acknowledging inevitable loss. Honey jokes about aging and manifests insights into her late-in-life relationships by regularly revising her will. In Honey, Victor Lodato (Edgar and Lucy) has created an unforgettable octogenarian, her elan and empathy an inspiration. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

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