Strife and conflicting loyalties among members of an Italian-American clan in mid-20th-century Chicago.
Agostino Peccatori and his brother have opened a neighborhood tavern in a former funeral home. Agostino’s role as social mainstay and barkeep allows ample opportunity for extramarital trysts. His wife, Angela Rosa, rules the roost at home, negotiating the perils of raising a brood who every day venture out into what are, for her, a foreign culture and an unfamiliar tongue. Their eldest son, recent high-school graduate Santo, wrestles with how to emulate Agostino’s ease in the world while spurning his self-indulgent lusts. Their 16-year-old daughter Victoria, defiant and precocious, romances a neighborhood bad boy and bridles against her mother’s and brother’s protectiveness. When the youngest, cosseted toddler Benito, succumbs to a fever, this story of assimilation takes a dark turn, with family secrets and deceptions multiplying. The title suggests a sepia-toned sentimental journey, but first-time novelist Romano mostly avoids hokum. His characters are granted complex, ambivalent motives, and he manages to evoke tenderness without ladling on the treacle. Victoria and Santo are especially well-drawn figures among the younger generation.
A low-key, compelling look at family love and betrayal set against an old-style immigrant drama.