This is volume 3 of the Wayfarer Trilogy, which follows an Italian family over several decades. In this installment, Marcella Scimenti, 15, is the central character, the daughter of Giacomo and Angelica, who were chronicled in prior volumes. It tells of Marcella’s coming of age in Brooklyn in the late 1920s. She longs to become a singer of popular music, but her parents oppose her appearing to be a “loose woman.” A sales job at Macy’s gains her new experiences in the world outside Brooklyn, such as a female co-worker making romantic overtures, and attending a summer camp for store employees. Neighbor boy Gianni loves Marcella, but he seems too safe a choice for her when she meets exotic, half-Chinese Bao, and the Viking-like Al, encountered at a summer retreat. A secret from Bao’s past becomes the catalyst for Marcella’s transformation into adulthood.
I may have missed some background information from not having read the first two volumes of the series. My main problem with the book, however, is that Marcella is something of a self-centered brat, often not very likeable. There is character growth, but late enough in the story to make the first part of the book rather tedious. Also, some of the author’s language is odd: “My ears attended the wind’s whistling canticles through the window fittings, bringing with them the scent of flowers.” Not exactly the word choices you’d expect from a teenage girl. The book has delicious passages describing food and cooking, like how the family made authentic pizza, or Marcella’s mother’s lesson on how to make homemade vinegar. Readers who liked the first two volumes of the series will definitely want to find out what happens to the family, but someone starting with this book may not be captivated.