Book Report: “Children of Italy”

Children of Italy -by Christine Simolke

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  • “More than a Review”

Draw me in. Set scenes with senses. Make me want more. Finish the story. This book does all that in wonderful fashion.

Christine Simolke’s “Children of Italy” is about being where you belong, and the journey taken by heart, mind, and body to get there.

The Falconi endeavor crosses an ocean to find their place in America. Family is foremost, with enthusiastic children, coming-of-age women, and adults who look to establish a proper home.

Mysteries make for moments of revelation in the story, but are not used to confuse the reader. Excitement and trepidation of travel to a new land are fully felt. Multiple story threads form a cohesive whole. For everyone running from something or somewhere, there is someone running toward something they want.

Clever crafting of this book creates art as well as story. First, a dark coal mine sets a shady backstory and establishes the plot. The flow quickens when sailing across ocean waters. Clouds of mine dust and factory emissions hang over Luigi’s life like the secrets he and others know. Rain falls on the dark days when antagonist Isolde confronts her future.

Flowery language isn’t the focus, but a child knows there are times to obey parents “… without quarrel or question,” quips the author.

The writer has her characters set the scene. Local residents describe their surroundings simply, echoing everyday experience rather than something sensational. Through new arrivals she adds layers of perception, communicating the same situation with fresh views. The ability of many of them to perceive inner thoughts and moods from other people’s expressions and actions is perhaps too generous, but creates an emotional scene as important as the physical, building a strong narrative.

I neared the final pages of “Children of Italy” thinking the story might not wrap neatly. Most books end with the simple sensation, “I’m done.” This one delivered more. I was fully satisfied with the finished tapestry of this tale. I was filled with wonder about the future of these characters. And when a scene reminiscent of “Anna Karenina” leapt off the page, I was complete.

It may be hard to find a copy of “Children of Italy” in 2018. The journey to do so is well worth the effort.

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