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Discussion Guide

This Magnificent Dappled Sea: A Novel

By David Biro

In the early 1990s, nine-year-old Luca Taviano lives in a small North Italian village where a stubborn cold is subsequently diagnosed as a virulent case of leukemia. His only hope for survival is a bone marrow transplant. After an exhaustive search, a match turns up three thousand miles away in the form of a most unlikely donor: Joseph Neiman, a rabbi in Brooklyn, New York, who is suffering from a debilitating crisis of faith. Luca's grandmother, Letizia, is surprised to learn of her grandson's Ashkenazi DNA profile, but Luca's young nurse, Nina, is intrigued by the unlikely match and researches his family history, risking her career and racing against time to help save him. Through the course of her research she uncovers terrible secrets from World War II—secrets that reveal how a Catholic child could have Jewish genes.


THIS MAGNIFICENT DAPPLED SEA was inspired by a true story, and David Biro, a physician who is himself the recipient of a successful bone marrow transplant, explores how two strangers—generations and oceans apart—have a chance to save each other. Can inheritance be transcended by accidents of love? That is the question at the heart of a novel that challenges the idea of identity and celebrates the ties that bind us all together.


Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

The title, This Magnificent Dappled Sea, is used in the book to describe the physical appearance of bone marrow—do you think it has a broader resonance as well?
Both Luca and the Rabbi suffer from illness: Luca from leukemia and Joseph from depression. How do their experiences converge and diverge?
Nina is shown to ponder sbagli or mistakes that happen in life. Some sbagli are our own doing; others, we have no control over. What are some examples in the book of such mistakes? Why does Nina think they are so important to acknowledge and how do they affect her life?

“David Biro has written a glorious novel about connections over time, through war and displacement, to life affirming twists of fate that change the course of the lives of Luca Taviano, an Italian boy and Joseph Neiman, a rabbi. Grief and love are intertwined in the experience of Italian Jews and this beautiful novel tells that story weaving in and out of time as secrets are revealed and redemption is lost and found. Bravo!” 

Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife


This recommended reading and discussion guide are shared and sponsored in partnership with David Biro.