Tag: Contemporary Fiction

Vita: A Novel


In April 1903, the steamship Republic spills more than two thousand immigrants onto Ellis Island. Among them are Diamante, age twelve, and Vita, nine, sent by their poor families in southern Italy to make their way in America. Amid the chaos and splendor of New York, the misery and criminality of Little Italy, and the shady tenants of Vita’s father’s decrepit Prince Street boarding house, Diamante and Vita struggle to survive, to create a new life, and to become American. From journeys west in search of work to journeys back to Italy in search of their roots, to Vita’s son’s encounter with his mother’s home town while serving as an army captain in World War II, Vita touches on every aspect of the heartbreaking and inspiring immigrant story.

The award-winning Italian author Melania G. Mazzucco weaves her own family history into a great American novel of the immigrant experience. A sweeping tale of discovery, love, and loss, Vita is a passionate blend of biography and autobiography, of fantasy and fiction.

518ykqghzxl-_sx332_bo1204203200_

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Inspired storytelling drives this fictionalized narrative, which follows the Italian author’s family to 1903 Ellis Island, where 12-year-old Diamante Mazzucco and his cousin Vita, age nine, evolve into star-crossed lovers striving to fulfill their destinies. Earning their keep in the squalid boardinghouse run by Vita’s father, the two (along with other relatives) are more or less confined to Prince Street in Manhattan, where they are subject to a horrifying array of abuses and privations. Deeply in love with Vita by the time he is 16 and determined to earn enough to marry her, Diamante signs on with a railroad building crew and unwittingly begins four years of involuntary servitude under conditions that Mazzucco describes in unsparing detail; this underrepresented corner of the East Coast immigrant experience feels as fresh here as it is brutal. Vita, meanwhile, survives three years in reform school and betrayal by a man who seduces her. The narrative throughout is lively, deeply affecting and complex, involving dozens of striving minor characters, some of whom turn to crime. Four-time novelist Mazzucco also interjects nonfiction chapters that relate her search for family members in Italy and the U.S., adding a resonant sleuthing element that further distinguishes this literary take on early–20th-century Italian-America and enduring love. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Mazzucco’s intermittently commanding and moving epic about the Italian immigrant experience tells the story of two children from a rural village in southern Italy amid the fetid slums of New York, circa 1903. Diamante, aged twelve, is the author’s paternal grandfather, and Mazzucco mixes fact with fiction in an attempt to imagine the life of his nine-year-old cousin Vita, a girl “with a great mass of dark hair and deep dark eyes.” Some of the more factual sections flag (such as those describing the Italian campaign in the Second World War), but in the early, imaginative parts the narrative is full of pungent fictional details, like Vita in her boarding house making artificial flowers, and Diamante loading bodies on a cart at a funeral parlor and measuring them for coffins.

Featured Novel (8/2/2016): Literature & Fiction


HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET

BONUS: This edition contains a Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet discussion guide and an excerpt from Jamie Ford’sSongs of Willow Frost.

“Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henry’s changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages…A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.”— Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war–not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today’s world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel.”
Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford’s first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.