A young woman travels to Italy and discovers her father’s secret past.
Olivia Bonocchio’s mother, who died when she was five, was an only child, and Olivia always assumed her father Luigi was too. Born in the Marche region, he arrived in America in 1944 and never discussed his past. When Luigi becomes ill with Alzheimer’s, Olivia, an art teacher in Manhattan, rearranges her life to grant him his last wish: that he die in the suburban home he was so proud to own. It is there she discovers an antique brass key and a deed to a house in Urbino, which prompt Olivia to investigate once her father is laid to rest. Barely three hours after signing the hotel register in Urbino, she is startled to meet a first cousin, Claudia, that she didn’t know she had. Over dinner that night at her cousin’s home, Olivia leafs through a box of photographs her father had sent his sister, now dead, over the years. No notes or letters. Only photos. The next day, a lawyer she contacts tries to persuade Olivia to forget the deed. He tells her that Luigi was a collaborator during the war. The house was owned by the Levi family. When it became illegal for Jews to own property, the father signed the house over to Luigi, who was his daughter’s friend. The Levis went into hiding and Luigi turned them in. Upon learning this, Olivia wishes she had never come. Is it possible her cousin, her lawyer, even a hotel maid, know her father’s character better than she? Olivia decides to stay and find out. Danford skillfully interweaves Luigi’s story with Olivia’s to reveal a complex truth.
An engaging debut.