Title: Forty Years in a Day
Author: Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito
Genre: Historical Fiction
Confession is good for the soul even after the soul has been claimed…
The story begins in Italy, 1900. After years of torment and neglect, Victoria and her four small children immigrate to Hell’s Kitchen, New York, to escape her alcoholic, abusive husband. On the day they leave, he tragically dies, but she does not learn of his death for several years—a secret that puts many lives on hold.
Quickly, they realize America’s streets are not paved with gold, and the limits of human faith and stamina are tested time and time again. Poverty, illness, death, kidnapping, and the reign of organized crime are just some of the crosses they bear.
Victoria’s eldest son, Vincenzo, is the sole surviving member of the family and shares a gut-wrenching account of their lives with his daughter during a visit to Ellis Island on his ninetieth birthday. He explains how the lives of he and his siblings have been secretly intertwined with an infamous Irish mob boss and ends his unsettling disclosure with a monumental request that leaves Clare speechless.
Forty Years in a Day is layered with the struggles and successes of each family member and defines the character of an era. Follow the Montanaro family through several decades, and stand in the shoes of a past generation.
New York, 1991
……….For me, it has always been a challenge to give a gift of distinction, a gift whose relevance and usefulness far outlasts the occasion, but today was different. Today I had wrapped my gift with ribbons I hoped would be forever tied to my father’s heart. He had reached a major milestone in his life that deserved to be commemorated—it was his ninetieth birthday. My thoughts danced with anticipation, knowing that I would be sharing this experience with him. I planned to take him on a special outing—one I imagine would be a passage through time for both of us.
……….We sat in silence as the ferry glided across the Hudson River. Memories flooded my mind of this man who lived every day of his life with such passion. I allowed myself the opportunity to appreciate his presence, to reflect on my father, to see life through his eyes. I was filled with admiration for all he had accomplished and for all the wisdom he possessed; not the wisdom attained by academics, but the wisdom that can only be acquired by living a lifetime.
……….We arrived early that October morning—I wanted to spend the whole day. Ellis Island had recently reopened its doors to visitors after many years of eerie silence. A tribute to generations of human spirit had been memorialized, and its interior exploded with thousands of personal stories of hardship and hope. Slowly, we wandered through each room, absorbing all that was presented. As I scanned the multitude of haunting faces that lined the walls, I realized my father’s could have been any of the forlorn expressions that mirrored the disquietude of an era. I tried to comprehend the magnitude of their struggle and courage, so unlike the life I had been living, but it must have been too real for my father, his silence was unsettling. Maybe the memories were too painful; maybe too many years had passed and he could not remember; maybe he did not want to remember.
……….The morning drifted by, awakening a plethora of emotions within me, but my father looked weary, and I suggested we take a break. Outside, in the crisp autumn air, we rested on a bench overlooking the river—welcomed warmth of the sun somewhat melting the chilling reality we had just behold.
……….To ease the silence, I commented on the weather, saying, “It’s a beautiful day.”
……….My father simply replied, “Clare, every day you’re alive is a beautiful day.”
……….Throughout his life, the phrase “it’s a beautiful day” had become his mantra. I had always thought of it as a cordial chitchat used to fill the uncomfortable gaps of silence in conversations, but only now did I comprehend the depth of his penetrating words. As if I had been sleepwalking through my years, my eyes opened wider, and I sat up straighter. His profound statement made me realize I do not respect the fragility of each day, the simplest pleasures in life, every precious moment. Life is a gift, and every day is an opportunity to revel in its glory.
……….As though seeing it for the first time, my father, Vincenzo Montanaro, stared transfixed at the Statue of Liberty that stood magnificently before us, her presence so significant, his expression just as compelling. Witnessing the depth of emotion so apparent on his face, my curiosity had piqued. I wished I could snuggle inside his thoughts and mimeograph his memories. There were many questions about his journey to America and our family, but I wondered if he was willing or able to fill in the pieces of the puzzle that made up their lives. He was the sole surviving member and the only one who could escort me across the bridge to their past. Tenderly, I gazed into his eyes and asked him what he remembered.
……….Suddenly, on this still day, a gust of wind swirled around us, rustling the leaves on the trees, and an unexpected chill permeated the air. Had I not known better, I would have thought that the ghosts of the past had just descended upon him to refuel his mind. Gently, he took my hand in hi—its size dwarfed mine. Shaking his head insistently, he chuckled and said he remembered it all as if it were yesterday. He exclaimed it was befitting to start his story at the very beginning—the one he had read in his mother’s journal revealing the circumstances that forced her to leave Italy and escape to America. When he said his mother’s name, Victoria, it was as if he were uttering a synonym for a saint. His eyes stared mysteriously into the distance; his mind focused on the past; his words echoed another time, another place, as he recalled the detailed with colorful lucidity, and I unconsciously slipped into an unfamiliar world and envisioned I was there.
Forty Years in a Day was an emotionally powerful and very touching book that had an unexpected twist. Although there were a lot of ups and downs, dramatic moments, and deeply moving events, it felt too rushed for me.
I understand they only had one day, but I felt like it wasn’t enough to make the readers feel the power emotions from the story. There were times when I was confused and had to go back a few pages just to see where I was in time. It was just too much happening , too many characters, and too much going on in a short period of time.
As for the characters, I wasn’t able to relate to them that much. There weren’t too much time given to each character for me to actually connect and relate with them. The characters could have been more powerful, relate-able, and unforgettable if it they were each given more time to capture the readers.
In summary, it was an unforgettable read with a very interesting and unexpected twist. I liked the writing style and the flow of the story – I just wished it was longer.
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Books and Bindings was given a review copy of Forty Years in a Day by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence or alter the thoughts and opinions of this review in any way.
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