Unto the Sons

Gay Talese, Author Alfred A Knopf Inc $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-41034-8
Filtering the history of Italian immigration to America through the personal saga of Talese's family, this massive and masterful volume recreates the author's ancestral home in the Southern Italian backwater of Maida, vivifying a superstitious, impoverished, apolitical and powerless underclass that for centuries was exploited by both its own aristocracy and a parade of foreign rulers and invaders. In Maida the author's great-grandfather Domenico ruled his farm with an iron hand; lured by a dream of prosperity, Talese's grandfather Gaetano left his family in Italy and worked himself to an early grave in a Pennsylvania asbestos-factory town. Gaetano's son Joseph witnessed the devastation that WW I heaped on his village, apprenticed as a tailor to a kindly uncle in Maida, later joined a cousin who had made his way to Paris, and eventually followed his late father's path to America in 1920. Talese ( Thy Neighbor's Wife ) nimbly juggles a large variety of characters, events and settings. An aloof loner, Talese's first-generation American mother, Catherine, grew up in an insular Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.; the walls of her home were hung with crucifixes, and her parents, who had both experienced tragic earlier marriages in the old country, wore the dark clothes of mourning. Raised in Ocean City, N.J., as a minority within a minority (an Italian in an Irish Catholic parish on a Protestant island), Talese recalls an exacting father who never played ball with him and who used him as a mannequin for his clothing creations. A story that will resonate for parents and children of every nationality relates how Joseph, torn between his loyalty to his adopted homeland and his love for his family in Italy, lost control of himself during WW II; upon learning that the Allies had bombed an abbey in southern Italy, he shut his ears to his son's cries and destroyed the fleet of model U.S. aircraft that Gay had painstakingly built. 300,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-8041-1033-4
Hardcover - 978-0-517-11801-6
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-345-46342-5
Paperback - 573 pages - 978-0-8129-7606-9
Open Ebook - 640 pages - 978-1-4090-0725-8
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