A close-knit Italian family struggles with war and terrorism over the course of four generations.
Anna and Arturo Terranova settle in a working-class neighborhood in Hell’s Kitchen, eager to start their new life together. Arturo runs a small yet profitable grocery store in the neighborhood, while Anna runs the household and tends to their kids, Camille, Michael, Christopher and Christina. When tragedy strikes the youngest Terranova, it becomes the first in a series of setbacks confronting the family. Each incident is shadowed by war–in fact, Cardinale divides the story into six sections, each focused on a specific conflict: World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, 9/11 and the second Gulf War. The lives of each family member inevitably become embroiled in each conflict–Camille’s beau, Harry Slovich, enlists in the army and fights in the Korean War; Christopher marches for peace in San Francisco in 1968; Michael’s son joins the air force; Camille’s twin sons work in the World Trade Center; Michael’s wife Jo becomes an anti-war activist; and Christopher’s son-in-law is a firefighter in New York City. The premise that a single family could be enmeshed in so many wars initially strains credibility, but the author effectively traces the emotional turmoil wrought upon each successive generation. While Cardinale does touch upon the specifics of each war, the strength of the narrative lies in the well-drawn characters and their personal struggles with the sweeping cultural and historical changes surrounding them.
The wholesomeness of The Waltons meets the ethnic ethos of The Godfather and the cultural expansiveness of Forrest Gump.