Spanning nearly eight decades and three continents, Zecchino’s autobiography describes two distinct parts of a remarkable life—the first in World War II Europe where she was born and lived as a young woman; the second, her post-war life in the United States as a wife, mother and successful businesswoman.
The defining backdrop of Zecchino’s childhood was the specter of WWII; a relatively carefree life in eastern Africa, where her father served in the Italian army, turned to terror amid fears of British invasion, her father’s capture as a prisoner of war and threats of violence from marauding rebels. Quickly dispatched on a Red Cross ship as part of the daring Navi Bianche (the White Boats) rescue, she, her mother and young siblings endured violent storms, dysentery and heat stroke, along with constant threats from stalking enemy submarines and aircraft. Arriving safely in Naples in June 1942 to a poverty-stricken post-war Italy, life resumed until she fell in love with an American soldier and sailed to America in 1947 under the War Brides Act. Together they opened a market in New York City, followed by a flourishing catering business and a growing family. A string of successes and failures resulted in the birth, rapid growth and extraordinary advancement of Holiday Foods, Zecchino’s high-end frozen food manufacturing company. The author’s story, told in slightly staccato, matter-of-fact prose, is one of resilience born of need, of honing the tools required to carve out the rewards in America that made her “stronger and yet more humble.” The extraordinary success of Holiday Foods was visible proof of this, yet the focus on the business end of her story lacks the detail and organization required to portray the complex strategic perspective needed to grow and develop a company this significant. Even though her passion for her business is palpable, she seems to be treading water with equal parts personal reflection and anecdotes that don’t gel, and she misses the mark when it comes to describing exactly how she built this business from a one-women catering shop to a manufacturing facility with 150 employees. The reflections of a close-knit family life amid difficult circumstances and events ring true throughout, though the narration is more controlled than exquisitely emotional where one might expect it.
What it lacks in mechanics and organization, it makes up for in intriguing detail; amazing glimpses into pre- and post-WWII life present the value and promise of America.