This tale of a family vendetta in one of New York's Little Italy's of the 1930's is another of those first novels which, happily, appear occasionally in the middle ground between the polymorphic prospecting of the best of modern fiction and the commercial sea of slick. Typically, these intense novels revolve on the emotive vagaries of enormous, major-scale characters, but the effect is absorbingly purgative. Marco was eight when his father, glowering, taciturn, stepped out into a morning sunlight and fatally shot his young mother. Raised by Aunt Rose. Marco progressively senses, through a child's deep grief, through the developing loyalties of a growing boy, the dim roots of the tragedy--hatreds, lusts and cruelties--for which his aunt was the repository and keeper. His uncle, a mafioso, his proud and elegant grandmother, an old man nicknamed ""The Keeper of the Gate,"" and the neighborhood chorus, provide clues to the violent, deprived childhood of the grandmother, the sad, near-joyless life of the young mother, the driven love of a mother for her son-in-law. Rose's devotion to Marco, in symbiosis to her vengeance, pull him from a reconciliation with his father (jailed and paroled), leaving a loneliness and alienation when all the principals in the blood feud are dead, and death takes the vendetta. At the last, Marco, grown and married, is reunited with his father's brother's family for a renewal of love. Among the stoops of the city streets, a shock of life. A good read; a good cry.