This novel promises a yarn about Bianca Corrotti inheriting a vineyard in Tuscany, Italy, which holds many secrets about her Uncle Egisto and his wife, the primary setting being Mussolini’s Italy during the first half of the twentieth century. Author Teresa Neumann dedicates it to her mother-in-law Babe, “a true Bertozzi,” and opens with a biblical quote involving Job’s daughters. The family tree that also introduces the story is, however, somewhat confusing, the plot itself commencing in 2001 with 88-year-old Bianca, a widow whose husband Danilo died years ago, and her Uncle Egisto did so as well in 1974.
Part I of the novel introduces Egisto in Ripa, Toscano, Italia in 1913, who makes sculptures for the deceased, the anarchist political ideology being prevalent at the time on the eve of the First World War, with Egisto loving a woman named Marietta, although Egisto himself isn’t particularly religious and yearns for a marriage outside the Catholic Church, their relationship consequentially seen as forbidden. Egisto does eventually marry another woman named Armida, with whom he had spent a drunken evening, although he forgets not his prior relationship with his initial love. Part II sees Egisto and Armida immigrating to America, settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, the action in the second section occurring from 1923 to 1930.
Armida eventually discovers letters written by her husband involving Marietta, for whom he still has feelings, and proves one of the many things that drives her to insanity and confinement into a mental institution for a few months. Part III involves Armida’s eventual return to Italy, at which time Benito Mussolini is taking power. Part IV occurs during the Second World War, Part V in its last two years, and Part VI in 1946. The author notes the novel was based on a true story with fictional elements, and was the product of years of research, which definitely helped this engaging story, with only a few parts that caused this reviewer to go back and reread to understand things, and some clarification on the family tree would have been welcome.