Believed cursed in her rugged Italian village, a tough, intelligent teen protects her younger sister when the family emigrates to America just before World War II, enduring challenges that transform her views about survival and independence.
...readers who appreciate narratives driven by vivid characterization and family secrets will find much to enjoy here. While the pacing is a bit meandering at times, readers’ patience is richly rewarded in this assured debut, which marks Grames as an author to watch.
[An] entrancing multigenerational family saga ... Grames’ debut will find broad appeal as both an illuminating historical saga and a vivid portrait of a strong woman struggling to break free from the confines of her gender.
Backboned by a familiar immigration narrative, the novel follows Stella through her near-death experiences from southern Italy to suburban Connecticut, revealing a woman who, to her family’s frustration, has always been fiercely headstrong and independent ... Her resistance to being 'mastered' permeates the story ... Ironically, though, the novel itself is in some ways an act of mastery. It’s a chronicle of Stella’s life that is mediated and controlled by the narrator, who not only bookends Stella’s saga with present-day scenes, but also occasionally inserts herself into the story to offer commentary or flash forward ... The novel reads like a fable, its language often formal and overdramatized, as if to convey a sense of timelessness ...the novel’s focus on establishing meaning for Stella’s life—and, moreover, for the narrator’s—comes to outweigh its stated goal of reclaiming the older woman’s reputation.