Molly's Reviews

A Brooklyn RoseA Brooklyn Rose
Susanna Lonchar
Publish America

Absorbing Read ... Recommended ... 5 stars

When an immigrant family moves to America in early 1900 they are filled with hope. Sicilian Francesco Finazzo, his wife Giroloma and their baby begin their new life in New York City. The family numbers five children when Giroloma watching from an upstairs window in 1911 sees her beloved husband shot dead on the sidewalk below. The time is near the turn of the century 1900s. It is a period of horse drawn wagons, push carts and multi languages heard on Brooklyn streets. Francesco's younger
brother Luiji, a recent immigrant himself following his brother's letter urging him to come to New York now faces a true dilemma. Luiji is only nineteen when he marries his brother's pregnant twenty-nine year old widow.

Luiji and Giroloma settle into life, at first one dominated by necessity and social mores, later by true affection for one another. Giroloma carries eleven children, typical of the time she does not get to raise them all. As the little one is born one of the older kids is assigned to be teacher and caretaker for the little one. Gangster funerals, police prejudice and racial tension are all part of the ever changing scene in which this family lives.

When Giroloma dies of cancer Luiji after 20 years of marriage to his brother's wife and seeing his brother's children all become adults sets out for Detroit with his own three teenaged children. At last he will have opportunity to marry the woman to whom he was engaged in Sicily before Franceso was murdered.

Author Lonchar offers the reader a peek into life as seen through the eyes of a typical family living in Brooklyn from late 1800s to 1939. Under Lonchar's skillful pen "A Brooklyn Rose" teems with the spectacle, reverberation and aroma of early 20th century New York tenement life. The reader is drawn into the narrative from the opening page when Giroloma is horrified to see her husband killed before her eyes. Interest is held fast right down to the last lines when Luiji and his three kids are settling into
their new home.

Lonchar proves her skill as a writer in this nicely crafted work in which she relates her family lore. "A Brooklyn Rose" is named for Luiji and Giroloma's daughter. Rose Finazzo is Lonchar's mother. With in-depth descriptions of foods, habits and dress the narrative provides the reader with a better understanding of the social history of the time when it is accepted that in Little Italy a brother must marry his sibling's widow. In the early 1900s it is also accepted that those on the lower end of the social scale will tolerate prejudice and children of poor people are often considered as little more than chattel by the infant social organizations developed to protect them.

Family traditions, an extraordinary childhood and hardship from living through The Great Depression are all found on the pages of "A Brooklyn Rose". Lonchar adds just enough broken English dialogue to flavor the tale.

"A Brooklyn Rose" is a good book for a long lazy afternoon sitting in the porch swing on the front porch. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

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2005 by Molly Martin