The Islands of Divine Music
Rosari Cara, the daughter of a peasant barber whose wife left him, is constantly poring over books and newspapers while still on the lookout for her mother. One of the few educated woman in a small Southern Italian town, Rosari writes a threatening yet comical letter from a criminal, an act which eventually forces the entire Cara family to immigrate to America, where they become the prosperous, flamboyant Verbicaro family. Their story is depicted with each chapter focused on one family member, a story spanning the entire 20th century. Experiencing snow for the first time on the ship to America, Rosari and her found mother, Eleonora, hear a heavenly sound “as of glass rubbing on silk,” an odd yet beautiful simile foreshadowing the immigrant family’s connection to America’s evolving history.
Through Giuseppe’s astute thinking and decision making, the reader sees the Verbicaro family’s rise to riches through investment in land and construction. Joe, the eldest son, becomes obsessed by business. Giuseppe believes that his not-so-innocent second bride, a young Hispanic second wife, has conceived his new child by an immaculate conception. Up to the time of Giuseppe’s death, this story carries a magical realism style reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, evoking the ephemeral sense of seeking the sacred in a markedly profane world. The narrative first- person children and grandchildren’s voices now become palpably real as they live through the confusion and stark fear of the Cuban missile crisis, the enthralling greatness of American baseball, the crushing defeat and rebellion during the Vietnam War years and the discarding of tradition fostered by the new millennium. John Addiego has written a riveting Verbicaro family saga reflecting the Italian immigrants’ animated point of view of American history, a kaleidoscope of the ordinary perceived by quite extraordinary characters.