When the World Was Young: A Novel

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9780060857936: When the World Was Young: A Novel

In Chicago, in the summer of 1957, Italian immigrants Angela Rosa and Agostino Peccatori are caught between worlds, as they cling to old-country ways in an era of upending change. Angela Rosa must cope with the building tension—exacerbated by Agostino's wandering eye—of raising five U.S.-born children who are struggling to define themselves within a family rooted in old-world tradition. But the events of a single tragic evening are about to bring all of their lives to a sudden, irreversible standstill—as a once resilient family begins to unravel under a crushing burden of guilt. A poignant testament to the power of sacrifice, loyalty, and unconditional love, When the World Was Young is a stunning tale of one family's will to survive.

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Review:

In the summer of 1957, in the heart of Chicago, Agostino and Angela Rosa Peccatori are first-generation Italian immigrants trying to make their way. They have five children, all born in the United States, and every day they see the old Italian ways eroding, losing ground to the American way of being in the world. Agostino spends his days running the neighborhood trattoria, Mio Fratello, with his brother Vince, who is in danger of drinking all the profits. Agostino is a tailor by trade, but wants to save the business, so he and his eldest son, Santo, help out in the bar and Agostino converts an upstairs bedroom into a tailoring shop.

Santo has finished high school and is looking around for what's next. His sister Victoria is 17 and drawn to the wrong company, both male and female. Santo tries to keep her on the right track, which leads to resentment on her part. Two younger brothers, Alfredo and Anthony, are 12 and 13 when the story begins, and are always thought of in the same breath, even though their temperaments are very different. Baby Benito is not quite two. There is no room for individuality or for expression of one's personality in the household. The expectation is that everyone will behave in the traditionally prescribed manner, stay out of trouble, go to church, help around the house, and speak when spoken to. But this is America, and it doesn't work that way, especially when the first to fall from grace is Agostino himself, in a most flagrant manner.

Agostino's mistake and a sudden, unexpected loss to the family cause everything that was once taken for granted to be called into question. Enormous grief engulfs everyone, and each of them reacts in his or her own way. In the end, great secrets are kept, but perhaps not kept from everyone, and a family estrangement takes place. No one is ever the same again, either as an individual or within the family. Romano knows these people inside out and has portrayed them honestly, compassionately, and with great and tender understanding. --Valerie Ryan

About the Author:

Tony Romano is the author of When the World Was Young and a two-time winner of a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. His work has been produced on National Public Radio's Sound of Writing series and syndicated to newspapers nationwide.

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