cover image Been Here a Thousand Years

Been Here a Thousand Years

Mariolina Venezia, , trans. from the Italian by Marina Harss. . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24 (263pp) ISBN 978-0-374-20891-2

Venezia's tale traces five generations of the Falcone family, beginning with Don Francesco Falcone—a rich, powerful, feared and often unsympathetic man—and his mistress, farmworker Concetta, who bears him six daughters before delivering a much-longed-for son. The women form the rich backbone of the story as they strive to overcome their sometimes unbearable circumstances. Through Gioia, a fifth-generation Falcone, Venezia travels among each generation. Sickly as a child, Gioia finds comfort and fascination in the stories of her forebears, then becomes a voracious reader of everything from Dostoyevski to calendars. Her own love of storytelling paints a word-picture of each of the eras of the family as well as the history of Grottole, the Southern Italian town where the story is set. Venezia also neatly weaves an Italian history lesson throughout, from WWI to the excesses of the '80s. Sometimes heartbreaking, always beautiful, these women will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned. (June)