Full of Life by John Fante. Little, Brown (1952), 178 pp.
Newly prosperous writer John Fante has a newly pregnant wife and a newly purchased house. Novelty has brought him problems, however. Wife Joyce is displaying some unusual behavior and entertaining some unusual thoughts. John accepts them as part of impending motherhood. He’s less tolerant of changes in the house, especially the giant hole in the kitchen floor caused by a colony of previously undetected termites. Repairs promise to be expensive -- unless he can convince his retired father, Nick, a former construction worker, to come down to L. A. from Sacramento and do the job for nothing.
The book focuses on two elemental concerns of family life: changes that occur during pregnancy (apparently something of a daring topic in 1952) and conflicts that arise about the appropriate role of grandparents. To fill out the story the author adds a dollop of Italian-American ethnic tradition and several buckets of religion. The first-person narrator, whom Fante has named after himself, views everything with bafflement or bemusement. Either way, the tone remains light. Overall, Fante’s style is reminiscent of Saroyan in one of his happier moods. The novel holds up well. The sort of reader who found it amusing sixty years ago -- optimally, perhaps, recently married Catholics with meddlesome parents -- would probably still enjoy it today.