Revolving largely around an ill-fated Sicilian couple forced to immigrate to America near the turn of the 19th century, this engaging work of historical fiction is equal parts mystery and romance.
English professor Antonio Sciacca sends his students out to explore the wonders of their hometown of Taormina—a small fishing village at the northeastern tip of Sicily—with disastrous results. One of his students, a beautiful young woman named Silvie, is brutally assaulted and raped by two thugs before her boyfriend, Marco, saves her by killing one of her assailants with a shovel, almost killing the other. The two attackers turn out to be members of the Mafia. With the young couple’s lives in danger, Sciacca comes up with a desperate plan: He and his wife travel with the couple to America, where Sciacca has family members living in Erie, Penn. Once there, under assumed names, Silvie and Marco begin their new life free from the threat of death. But the rape has left Silvie pregnant, and in succeeding years, her son, Alfredo, becomes increasingly violent and dangerous. Members of the close-knit extended family attempt to save Alfredo from himself, but fate may be too much. While the novel is replete with powerful imagery, from the richly storied streets of Taormina to the nightmare voyage across the Atlantic and the chaos of Ellis Island, there are a few narrative failings. Glaring spelling errors—for instance, Sciacca’s wife, Angelia, is frequently referred to as Angelina—and clunky dialogue detract from the novel’s momentum. But Edel’s strong character development, compelling storyline and righteous conclusion more than make up for the errors.
A flawed but highly enjoyable novel that offers up a heartfelt glimpse into the Italian-American experience.