John Addiego's debut novel, The Islands Of Divine Music, is a multigenerational saga of the Verbicaro family, Italian immigrants. The matriarch, Rosari, fled Italy after getting involved with a criminal in Italy when she was a young teenager. Fooled by him into activities that could get her into legal trouble, her family migrated to America for a better life. Once here, Rosari and her father moved on from New York City to San Francisco, where there was a large Italian settlement. There she met Giuseppe, the man she would marry and have seven children with.
Although she and Giuseppe had a long marriage, it was not a happy one. In his older years, he left Rosario and married a prostitute, who had a son, Jesus. Jesus's life story is intertwined with that of the Verbicaro children, throughout their lives. Rosario's children follow Giuseppe into the construction business, where they are successful. Jesus and his mother become migrant workers, and later he becomes a transexual prostitute.
Each chapter in the book narrates the life of another Verbicaro family member. There are the smart brothers, the dumb yet charming ones, the girls who make good marriages and those who make good careers. As time goes on, the children of these family members grow up and their life stories are explored also. Some family members reappear in multiple chapters, like Paul, who comes back from the war addicted to drugs and plagued by the things he'd seen. A continuing theme is also how the family searches for their missing half-brother, Jesus, over the years.
This book will be enjoyed by those who like to read family sagas, and have an interest in the lives immigrants built in this country. The characters are distinct, and remain in the reader's thoughts well after the book is finished. This is an impressive debut for a new author, and I hope to hear more from him.