Forty Years in a Day, by Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito, is a novel that begins in Italy, and concerns Victoria Montanaro and her family.
After years of hardship in Italy and after struggling with an alcoholic and abusive husband, Victoria and her children leave for America, unbeknownst to her husband and to her father.
What follows from there is the struggle for survival in America, a struggle that was unexpected due to the illusion that America was the land of opportunity and that the streets were lined with gold. Like many immigrants, their ideals of America being the land of wealth and accomplishment were soon diminished, and the reality of life set in quickly.
The story is told through the eyes of Vincenzo, who is Victoria’s oldest child. He is taken on a outing to Ellis Island by his daughter, for his birthday, and once there, memories of the past flood his mind.
The wave of nostalgia and sadness overcomes him, and he tells his life’s story to his daughter, as they overlook the surroundings of Ellis Island. In one day, he relates forty years of family history, beginning with the turn of the 20th century. He describes daily living and the struggles his mother endured in order to keep food on the table. He describes how is siblings sought to assimilate and build identities, some based on negativity. Vincenzo describes long held family secrets, secrets that give foundation to his daughter and give her knowledge of her ancestral background.
The reader follows the family through the harshness that they encountered through the decades and generations. The authors depict the daily existence within the confines of poverty and menial job opportunities quite well. The forty-year time period is depicted with excellent word-imagery, and with sensitivity to the family situations of assimilation and identity.
I enjoyed reading Forty Years in a Day.