only our destiny cover

There is all the history of Italy and the world in this novel, whose title is nearly prophetical and reassuring: Only Our Destiny. Only three words which open the way to a poignant narration on what happened, starting from the 1920s, to the family originally composed by Giuseppe and Raffaella.

They live in Southern Italy, in the fictional village of Punto Roccioso, along the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The village is picturesque and scenic, but with all the typical problems of the small towns, namely: misery, poverty, perennial economic crisis, money shortage, and, at last, unemployment.

That is why Southerners looked for a better future for their daughters. One of them is Raffaella’s father, Domenico, who pushes the girl to marry the infamous Giuseppe Esposito, a mean villager who will have a central role in the most historically relevant chapters of the novel.

Yes, because Giuseppe is a boasting and bully man who is accustomed to beat his wife, leading her to unhappiness and to have ten children, often conceived during the marital rapes.

The village of Punto Roccioso is, as said, fictional, but experiences, sufferings, troubles, tears, and dreams of the characters are real and palpable, such as the fatalistic words “it is only our destiny”, said by the old zingara Carlotta to Raffaella, when the woman asked her for a potion to make Giuseppe sleep and avoid beatings and rapes.

Through a touching writing style, A.G. Russo rendered an unforgettable testimony about what happened in a complicated and still unknown time, which starts from the pandemic of 1920 and goes across the rise of Fascism and the rampage of the Second World War.

The historical references are extremely detailed and allow us to discover how people faced and overcame the tragedies of their time, that, talking about war and pandemic, are the same ones we have had today.

The Spanish flu, which hit the world between 1918 and 1920, started, in fact, shortly after the end of the first World War. The contagion was spread by soldiers, who returned to their homes after the conflict. Undiagnosed and unaware of being infected, they returned with fever, cough and severe pneumonia. Most of the time, they died.

50 million were the deaths of that pandemic all over the world. The novel reports this important information, also, because it is fundamental to understand what happened afterwards.

In the 1920s, the economic crisis was heavy, especially in the South of Italy. Many Italians escape to the United States, chasing the so-called “American Dream”, on the quest of a better future and unaware about humiliations, and prejudices that they will have to face in the great America.

There and in the North of Italy, Southerners were considered lazy, ignorant and were usually exploited. They were even arrested and persecuted as the enemies of America for the alliance of Mussolini with Hitler.

I felt all the soul of the author in the novel, because it is natural to think that there is a bit of his Italian roots in the story.

From an awful pandemic, as a Pandora’s pot, all the worst of humans comes out in those hard and gloomy times: dictatorships, persecutions, a new pointless war, while sons and relatives of Raffaella go to warfare or to the United States, such as Geno and Corrado.

The book is a masterpiece of historical truth. While we read about the past, indeed, it leads us to understand the future. Only very few novels have explored the vicissitudes of Southern Italy, Fascism, War and Immigration in such a deepened way, creating a subtle historical bond between Italy and the United States.

A.G. Russo does it with brilliant mastery and a vibrant writing style, surrounded, in the book, by a few words of Neapolitan dialect (simultaneously translated into English).

The story is alive and sharp, even in the most realistic and raw violence scenes. They are necessary to talk to our hearts and convey an important message in our time of war and economic downturn: if our ancestors have never surrendered and kept moving forward, amid injustice, violence, and world war, we can do the same. It is our destiny, but also our duty (book reading included)!

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