The Sicilian Inheritance cover

This is a book written by a woman for women. Not common women, but very special persons who shaped and marked the history of Sicily amid tragedies, epidemics, and the emigration of their men. Women with no role and no social relevance, but with an inner strength and an uncommon courage.

This is also the story about a family of bold women who risked to remain trapped in the cruelest prejudice the Sicilian tradition has ever generated. Forced to be only wives and mothers, these women, indeed, never had the opportunity of a social redemption, and those who aimed for the most got blamed and considered bitches or witches.

It is in this tragic scenery that Jo Piazza retraces the origin of this Sicilian prejudice and narrates the life of Sara Marsala and her great grandmother Serafina Forte

The characters are fictional, but represent the Sicilian ancestors of the author.

The novel is partially set in America and mainly in Sicily, in the fictional village of Caltabellessa, which, as a matter of fact, coincides with the real village of Caltabellotta, in the province of Sciacca.

Sara Marsala is going through a harsh moment of her life: the double failure of her business and marriage.

But, just before her entire world falls apart, she receives an important assignment from a letter of her recently deceased aunt Rosie. She must go to Sicily in order to claim a land that belonged to her great grandmother Serafina Forte.

At this stage, the book splits into two novels, with chapters set in the present time of Sara, and the others set in the past time of Serafina. Sara’s ancestor lived in the 1920s. A span of 100 years, masterfully depicted by the author with the transformations occurring in Sicily, and related to the social and personal troubles of Sicily women.

These particular and special women lived in a time dominated by prejudice, ignorance and superstition, in which, when a little girl menstruated, she got tortured, because considered possessed by demons.

This detail gives Sicilian readers a shriveling along the spine, because, just recently, in Altavilla Milicia, a village near Palermo, a man killed his family because he believed them possessed by the devil.

It is really impressive how an American author perfectly described an awful prejudice that still today survives in the poorest angles of the island.

But the novel is not focused on that, only, but on the compelling life of Serafina Forte, who wants to go to school, get a job and her own independence and, instead, ends up married to Giovanni Marsala, emigrated to the United States for a better life.

At the time, tons of Sicilian women were abandoned by their husbands, because of the massive emigration of men to America. Alone, and with no financial support, these women took the role of their fugitive husbands to raise the children and work hard to sustain and feed them.

However, this important social role never was rewarded and considered. But, above all, it never was respected. Serafina is a woman who saved many lives during the flu that ravaged Sicily at the time, but the only concern of her relatives is to make sure she does not betray the migrant husband.

In the novel, Serafina gets, apparently, murdered. Maybe for an honor crime.

But, amid gripping twists and facts regarding Sicilian places and culture, Jo Piazza provides readers with a poignant glimpse on the most painful contradictions of Sicily.

Sicilian expressions make the plot realistic and palpable, such as cu picca parrau mai si pintiu (those who speak little never regret), a way of saying that recalls the mafia culture.

This aspect is mentioned in the book , as well, but the mafia power is blurred and remains in the background of the story, which is centered on the heroic deeds of Sicilian women called to fight and get what life always denied to them: an inheritance made of dignity and respect, not of submission or fear.

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