Patricia Hampl at The Paris Review:
Mother Tongue is “an American life,” as its subtitle says, lived in provincial, family-laden Parma (not international Rome, not the Amalfi coast, nor a restored Tuscan villa). This is a life knocked wonderfully off-balance (well, wonderful for the reader) to reveal an almost shockingly frank intelligence. A rare candor pervades and enlivens these chapters. No doubt its keen focus is bred of isolation, even loneliness. Such is exile. The job is to say what you see—inside and outside. It’s an act of faith in our supposedly faithless world.
The exile is not only geographic. It’s linguistic. This is an American writer; English is her business, but her life and the life around her is lived in Italian.