A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
In April 1903, Diamante, age twelve, and Vita, age nine, are sent by their poor families in southern Italy to make a life for themselves in America. Theirs is an unforgettable love story, a riveting tale of immigrant survival and hope that takes them from the crime-ridden tenements of Little Italy to the brutal rail yards of the Midwest, on paths that cross with the Black Hand, Caruso, and Chaplin. It is a story that reaches across decades, to the son of Vita, who would travel as far as Italy to find his roots and the man who could have been his father.
In Vita, the author, Melania G. Mazzucco, also tells her own story of how she found Diamante and Vita in old photographs, documents, ship manifests, and the fading memories of her relatives, and from these fragments of the past imagined this gripping epic fiction of her family's history.
Overall, though, Mazzucco, in Virginia Jewiss's rich translation, comes across as a supple stylist with a strong sensory gift. Moreover, her narrative has an engaged intensity. Tracking these lives, the traces of their passage, is clearly a mission, not just a search for interesting subject matter.