Author: Christine Simolke

Publisher: Masquerade an Imprint of Hawkins Publishing Company

ISBN: 978-0-9962145-1-3

Christine Smolke, with her debut novel Children of Italy: Love Secrets & Betrayal, spins quite a fascinating tale inspired from her research paper she had written in graduate school that was based on an interview she had conducted with her grandmother, Giovanna and the stories of her great aunt, Evelina, both of whom had emigrated from Italy in the 1920's to settle in the U.S.A.

The principal theme is just about summed up in the opening sentence of the tale: All men have regrets. Luigi Falconi had only one. The guilt from it had robbed him of many a good night's sleep. His transgression couldn't be undone, but he could sweep it under the rug. He would begin tonight with a clean slate, as the Americans liked to say.

And so begins the saga that unfolds in March of 1924 where we are first introduced to Luigi Falconi living in West Virginia and employed in the coal mines. Luigi longs for the day he can bring his wife Appollonia and his three daughters, Giovanna, Maria and Evelina to America. It has been twelve years that he has been living in the land of “golden opportunity” and only once has he returned to Italy.

Luigi, however, hasn't been faithful to his wife during the course of their separation and has been carrying on an affair with Isolde Caldara who is determined to pry him away from his family and have him marry her. Luigi insists that he is in love with his wife and the only reason for his indiscretion with Isolde is that he was lonely, nothing more.

The yarn shifts to Appollonia and her three daughters who are sailing to America on the SS Roma as Luigi had saved up enough money to bring them to West Virginia. While on the trip, Giovanna, Luigi and Appollonia's eldest daughter, meets a dashing young man, Alessandro Pascarella and his friend Mario who are in the employ of the ship. Giovanna falls in love with Alessandro who likewise is smitten. As the voyage to America comes to an end, Giovanna, who looks forward to reuniting with her father, is heart broken to say good bye to her first love, although the couple do promise each other to meet again in America. You will have to read the novel to find out if they ever do meet again.

Back in West Virginia Luigi can hardly wait to welcome his family when they arrive in New York, however, Isolde, who becomes a thwarted mistress, is determined to create havoc and even goes to the extent of destroying a telegram sent to Luigi indicating that his family would be arriving one day earlier than ordinarily scheduled. The family are eventually re-united and they begin their new and harsh lives in West Virginia.

To get away from Isolde, Luigi decides to follow the advice of Giovanna's brother Bernandino, who lives in Ohio and move with his family near him while taking a job in the steel mills. He is not quite sure how he will divulge to his brother-in-law his betrayal and indiscretion with Isolde, on the other hand he is not aware that Bernandino is likewise keeping a personal secret from his family.

Once in motion the novel gathers momentum and the it could be compared to a family heirloom held in our hearts rather than in our hands. For one thing, similar stories have probably been narrated time-and-time again where lonely immigrants were looking for companionship and comfort through emotional relationships. A point often overlooked is that many of these encounters led to extramarital affairs that would change the fabric of their marriages with devastating consequences when their spouses arrived in America.

Another key element of the novel is that its fast paced economical style depicts more about a time frame and the ways in which immigrants inhabited it to survive than would probably be found in many social history books.

Overall, what we have is a novel that many of us can relate to particularly if we were fortunate enough to be exposed to stories about people, places, and events related to members of our immediate family and their ancestors.

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