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This is a rich, vital novel about a large Italian family determined to make their own way in a conservative New England town dominated by Irish politicians. The implications of the book are broadly sociological but its concern is warmly human. Spanning three generations, the story of the Giordanos takes place during the years 1938 to 1956 and it is largely episodic. Presiding over events and fiercely possessive of her children's fortunes is the widowed matriarchal Annunziata who, though inextricably bound to old country customs, goads her children, especially the boys, towards new world symbols of success so long as they are translated into Italian terms. For Mike, an artist, and John, enmeshed in the academic rat race, Mamma's influence has schizophrenic results. Desperate to prove that they can rise above the Abbott Street ghetto and endowed with intelligence and education, they nevertheless lack the moral stamina ever to really achieve anything: Annunziata has their spirits broken. Only Vincent, because he happened to marry well, gets Mamma's approbation though he is himself beset by anxieties and doubts about the worth of his life. In the girls Connie and Tess, complacent and ordinary, Annunziata has no real opponents; it is the determined and calculating Linda who is her closest match. Supposedly relegated to spinsterhood at thirty-five, Linda, for ten years, had been the mistress and confidante of wealthy, socially prominent Vito Marcotti. And shrewdly, when Vito's wife died she blackmailed him into marrying her but not without paying the price of Annunziata's knowledge of the affair, though it is typical of Annunziata that she would condemn her daughter's way of life only if it proved unsuccessful. The book ends with Linda's triumph and on a sociological note as Abbott Street is demolished to make way for a super highway: Annunziata's grandchildren will have different battles to fight. It's a lively and exceptionally readable story, absolutely authentic and believable to the last detail.

Publisher: Random House