In this expansive historical epic, Bruschini traces the Mafia’s origins in Sicily’s feudal society.
Bruschini’s two-part narrative opens in Sicily between 1920 and 1939. The second part follows immigrants to New York City from 1939 through the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily. The first part is foundational history, especially of the Sicilian people, "a humanity crushed by poverty and hunger, ignorance and despair" yet with “a sense of dignity...never giving up until they breathed their last." No heroes here, but there’s a surprising reconciliation between two flawed protagonists, Prince Ferdinando Licata and Saro Ragusa, a Jewish doctor’s adopted son in the town of Salemi. History fans will enthuse over Part 1 and Bruschini’s exploration of how Sicilian landowners and aristocrats manipulated peasants and the poor through largesse and violence. Conspiracy fans get their meat in Part 2, with Bruschini’s speculation that the sinking of the Normandie and lost Lend-Lease shipments can be tied to a mob grab for power. The story begins with Royal Guardsmen raiding a bandit family’s house, the massacre warping the surviving child, Jano Vassallo, into a bully who becomes a Mussolini Black Shirt. The raid, pinned on Rosario Losurdo, Licata’s gabellotto, or foreman, sparks a cascading series of assassinations, vendettas and romantic entanglements, culminating with Licata’s and Saro's flight to New York. There, Licata, through his "profound sense of justice,"becomes a respected player among the cosca’s—the mob’s—Five Families. Plot, conflict and setting—Sicily and New York’s Little Italy—are enhanced by historical references to things as diverse as the tommy gun, the way the repeal of Prohibition expanded the illicit drug market, the NYC music scene and the Mafia’s role in the successful invasion of Sicily.
A complex, informed and intelligent saga mating Rich Man, Poor Man and The Godfather.