UNDER THE ROSE by Flavia Alaya


A Confession
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A torrid tale of illicit love between an Italian-American woman and an Irish-American Roman Catholic priest that lasted for 20 years and produced three children. Alaya is no ordinary Italian-American; with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, she is a Victorian scholar and an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The priest was no ordinary priest, but the late Father Harry Browne, a nationally known New York City housing activist in whose rectory bedroom the FBI found and arrested the famous anti—Vietnam War prelate Philip Berrigan. It’s Alaya who puts the emphasis on her Italian heritage, and it was in Italy that she and her soon-to-be- lover met, while both were on scholarly grants. She was an inexperienced 21-year-old; he was 16 years her senior and celibate nearly that long. The physical passion that brought them together kept them together in secret nightly rendezvous and public daytime encounters organizing strategy to preserve low-income housing in their New York City neighborhood. Alaya was satisfied to enjoy both love and independence, even after the children began to come and her parents turned away from her. It was the burden of three children and a stressful career plus Harry’s increasingly time-consuming involvement in good works that caused her to demand—and him to agree—that he come home. They lived together as man and wife for almost a decade, until Harry died of leukemia in 1980. Alaya has since remarried twice, reconciled with her father and learned his shameful secret, and struggled to have this memoir published. Her years with Harry are richly interlarded with stories of her growing up in a close and often temperamental Italian-American family, reflecting a preference for the drama and passion of opera; the chapters in the book are named for Italian operas. In this memoir, as in opera, it’s the powerful feeling, not the melodramatic plot, that will capture the reader. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1999
ISBN: 1-55861-221-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999