The Madonna of the Mountains

Spiegel & Grau. Jun. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780399592430. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399592454. F
In 1923, in the mountains of Northern Italy, Maria Vittoria, 25 and past marriageable age, awaits her father's return home with a suitable match. Achille is a handsome veteran from another valley, as most of the local men had been lost to the Great War or already spoken for. Her mother's wedding gift to the couple is a statue of the Virgin Mary, to whom Maria vows to pray. Maria and Achille move to a small town where he buys a grocery store. Although four children are born to the couple, the marriage is fraught with domestic violence and financial struggles as Mussolini's Fascist Party comes to power. The family struggles to survive tested loyalties and further hardships when the Germans invade, but resilient Maria remains determined and devoted throughout.
VERDICT Somewhat reminiscent of Albert Moravia's Two Women, Valmorbida's (Book of Happy Endings) historical novel, which includes numerous Italian words, many not translated, as well as a deep understanding of the tenets of Catholicism, focuses on Italy between two World Wars. Her powerful epic is a solid choice for readers who appreciate layered family sagas involving betrayals and broken hearts. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]
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