By Laurie Fabiano
PBR Book Review:Set in the early 1900ís, this absorbing story is actually a fictionalized account of the immigration experience of Laurie Fabianoís great-grandmother. Fabiano writes with force and passion; she develops not simply characters in a book but members of a family and a community. I loved Giovanna- the main focus of the book- she is determined, brave and fiercely proud. The story follows her from her carefree childhood days in Italy to the lower East Side of NY where her strength is repeatedly tested. She and her family struggle to make a life in NY and are forced to live in fear and deal with extortion by the Black Hand, an early version of the Mafia. There are language barriers, problems securing work and discrimination issues. Italians are paid lower wages and work the jobs no one else wants. Laurie Fabiano does a great job of showing that the resilience to overcome these adversities and succeed comes from the indelible influence that neither distance nor time can weaken - strong family bonds. In summary, although too wordy and slow in spots, itís a wonderful story of courage and triumph that will appeal to those who like Historical Fiction, family sagas, or just enjoy a good story.
Book Club Talking Points: Talking Points:
The essence of this book and that which will generate the most discussion is the main character, Giovanna as she goes from a whimsical young girl full of puppy love to a formidable woman capable of standing up for what she feels is right. Her marriage of necessity and the actions she takes against the Black Hand (considered the early Mafia) and a big corporation she feels has wronged a family member are all discussion worthy. The early immigration experience is beautifully portrayed in this book and there are some amazing family and friendship dynamics. This book will surely be enjoyed by books clubs that enjoy historical fiction or womanís fiction.
*Author Website: http://www.amazon.com/Laurie-Fabiano/e/B0032TWAFO/
*Other Books by Same Author: Debut novel for this author
1. Giovanna was certainly a strong woman; she left the comfort of family in Italy to travel to America and forge a new life. How much of her character was shaped by the times; dealing with the Black Hand, taking a stand against a big corporation, being an immigrant, fighting for her child.
2. Discuss Giovanniís second marriage and her motivation for marrying a man she was not in love with. Did this seem to be in character for her? Did it bother you that she was willing to make such a huge compromise? Talk about the differences between her fist love and marriage and her second and the different kinds of love. Do you think she was a good wife?
3. Compare any personal struggles you have had similar to Gionanna, how you overcame them and what you learned from the experience.
4. Discuss Giovannaís relationship with the town midwife, Signora Scalici. Do you think Giovanna was right to not trust Signora Scalici with knowledge of her daughters kidnapping? Talk about why Giovanna could not continue the relationship with her friend and mentor after this? How would you have handled the situation?
5. What other characters do you think were central to the novel? Which characters did you like or dislike. Did the characters and events seem believable and nuanced or stereotyped? Did you feel emotionally connected to the characters in this book?
6. Do you think the male characters, especially Giovannaís second husband Rocco were portrayed as being strong? Do you think Rocco loved Giovanna, or did he marry her out of necessity?
7. The story is based on true events. Does knowing this change your feeling about any of the events that unfolded or any of the characters portrayed?
8. Talk about the tone and mood of the book and how it added or distracted from the story. The book is written with flashbacks. Did you like this? Discuss the accuracy of the historical portion of this book and the authorís ability to capture time and place. Discuss the authorís writing style.
9. Laurie Fabiano gives us some rich details of the immigration experience. Talk about the human condition to discriminate and the other challenges the immigrants faced such as unequal wages and poor working conditions with no benefits. Contrast the 1900ís immigration experience to that of todayís immigrant. Did reading this book change your opinion of immigration?
10. This story really captures the food, lifestyle and intimacy of Italian culture at the turn of the century. Talk about the closeness of the family members and their unwillingness to trust people outside of their small close-knit community. Do you think todayís immigrant families share the same strong bonding and tendency to distrust outsiders?
11. There are many references to the Statue of Liberty. Did these references evoke any emotions in you? Did the story in general make you more appreciate of what these early immigrants did for America? Did reading this story make you proud to be American or ashamed?
12. What circumstances allowed the Black Hand to gain a foot hold in the Italian community? Discuss the various form government corruption that takes in todayís world.
13. Discuss your reading experience. Was this a satisfying read? Do you think the reading experience is different for descendants of Italian immigrants? What is the storyís greatest strength? Weakness?
(Questions by PBR. Please feel free to use them with acknowledgment.)
MmazonEncore, May 4, 2010 - Fiction - 438 pages|
Based on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900's, and crosses the ocean to New York's Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand - the precursor to the Mafia. Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence - a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia. Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand - and the impact their crimes had on her family. Giovanna is based on Fabiano's great-grandmother, and the book's heroes and villains - such as Lieutenant Petrosino, the crusading cop and "Lupo the Wolf," a cold-blooded criminal - are drawn from real life in this thrilling tale. While set in a dynamic historical context, Elizabeth Street is, above all, the dramatic story of the heroine, Giovanna, and how she triumphed over tragedy.