IN A GLASS HOUSE by Nino Ricci


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The second in a projected trilogy (The Book of Saints, 1991) celebrating the Italian immigration experience--this time in a story that seems to circle around, rather than pin down, its young protagonist, now living in Canada. Picking up where installment number one left off, Ricci describes how young Vittorio Innocente and his baby half-sister, Rita, grow up in an Italian farming community in Toronto. Their mother died giving birth to Rita on the voyage from Italy, and while Vittorio's father and the rest of the family, who've also immigrated, give the baby the most perfunctory care, Vittorio feels especially responsible for her. The product of an affair Vittorio's mother had with another man back home, she is a remarkably resilient child, even though neglected and cruelly punished by her stepfather--a moody, inarticulate man whose good intentions are subverted by his fears and anxieties. Vittorio, soon changing his name to Victor, is less resilient, more sensitive to the tensions within the family and the plight of various members caught between the old and new ways. These conflicts (like an aunt's relationship with an eligible second-generation Italian falling apart when the family insists on imposing old world obligations on the suitor) parallel Victor's accelerating but always uneasy move into the new and non-Italian world. Nothing seismic happens--Rita is adopted by a local family whose daughter has befriended her; the farm begins to prosper despite a boiler fire; Victor loses his virginity in high school, goes to college in Toronto, then, still alienat≤d, teaches in Nigeria until summoned home because his father has died. A last epiphany, equally low-key, on the road to Toronto and a new life offers Victor some hope of reconciliation between the strange and the familiar. Surprisingly unmoving, despite the vivid portrayal of immigrants adjusting, changing, but never quite abandoning their heritage.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Picador/St. Martin's