A HOUSE ON THE PIAZZA by Kenny Marotta

A HOUSE ON THE PIAZZA

Short Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Marotta (a Piece of Earth, 1985) links seven stories and a novella to make up his debut collection—Italian diaspora tales that easily transcend their ethnic theme in time and place. Though rooted in a fully imagined re-creation of the Sicilian migration to America, Marotta’s gently ironic narratives have the archetypal resonance of fable and folktale. There’s nothing nostalgic in the author’s depiction of life in the old country, specifically in Pianosanto, a mountain town near Palermo, where a wily seamstress, cheated of her pay by a wealthy family after the bride-to-be dies suddenly, tricks the dead girl’s older brother into marrying her homely and dimwitted daughter (—Seamstress—). Meanwhile, the dead bride’s sister, in —Her Sister,— marries the intended groom and uses her humility to achieve what her sister never could—a promise to go to America. The two learn in the New World, though, that things are no easier than at home and the women no less clever. In —The Boarder,— a widow’s daughter, who works in a candy factory, plots to scare away a male boarder so she can replace him with a husband. The duped brother of —Seamstress,— Nino, reappears (—In the Country—) to stake his future on a home far from the trolley line—and also regrettably far from friends in the old neighborhood. By the time of —His Right Arm,— Nino has lost everything but his stubborn pride. The novella (—Asphodel—) finds Nino and his wife, with their fortunes restored, embarked on a pilgrimage back to the old country, where Nino hopes to retaliate against the heartless moneylender who long ago bankrupted his family. Stingy and mean, Nino discovers that his nemesis has given himself to God and a life of penitence, while Nino’s wife has decided to stay in the place where she feels more at home. Events having come full circle, the arranged marriage of the first story begins again, without the pressures of poverty and family. For all their transparent negotiations, the immigrants of Marotta’s splendid fiction inhabit a world as complex as a Jane Austen novel. A delight.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55071-032-X
Page count: 186pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998