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Excerpt from The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

The Sicilian Inheritance

A Novel

by Jo Piazza
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  • Apr 2, 2024
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I wore a bright red jumpsuit that had been sitting in the back of my closet for the better part of a decade with the tags still on. I couldn't afford anything new. I'd applied for and been approved for seven credit cards over the past three years. Six of those cards were currently maxed out. The jumpsuit was too tight and too low-cut, but I knew Aunt Rosie would have loved it.

The bar was loud and rowdy. I hadn't seen my cousins and extended family in a couple of years, but folding myself into their comforting melee felt like sinking into a warm bath. There were hours of toasts and storytelling. Aunt Pat baked a massive cake with a picture on it of Rosie at her seventieth birthday wearing a T-shirt that read sexy at seventy. There was Aunt Rosie trivia and eventually Dolly Parton karaoke.

My sister, Carla, and I eased our way around Aunt Arlene, who was in the midst of a stunning rendition of "Islands in the Stream" on the karaoke machine with my mom and Arlene's daughter, Little Arlene.

Mom was really belting it out. She shimmied with Sophie on her shoulders. I wanted to grab my daughter, spin around with her, and hold tight to her spindly little body. I knew the next month of vacation with her other grandparents would do my daughter some good. I also knew Jack's mother would use the time to determine if I'd somehow caused Sophie irreparable damage with my recent personal miseries. Sophie has always been more resilient than me, but I still worried about her. Since I had to file for bankruptcy I could hardly drag myself out of bed except to handle the logistics of shutting La Macellaia down. There was a hell of a lot of grief involved in losing something you built from scratch, in losing the future you expected to have. I often drank too much at night to fall asleep and mainlined coffee all day to stay awake. Even when I was with my daughter, I wasn't always really there.

I tugged on Sophie's naked big toe and kissed her foot. She'd thrown her shoes somewhere in the corner during an earlier dancing session.

"Who's paying for this?" I asked Carla as we walked across the room, balancing two trays of shots to bring to our dad and uncles.

"I think Rose stashed some cash away," Carla replied. "She knew this day was coming."

At ninety-one it's always coming. Rosie had been fading for a year at least. The last time I'd seen her, a few months ago, she'd hardly gotten out of bed except to make the two of us a pair of strong old-fashioneds and to light the living room fire with a single match.

"A real woman makes a good drink and lights her own fires, Sara," she always reminded me. She told me lots of brilliant things over the years. I wish I'd written them all down. As Rosie and I had sipped our drinks, she said, "This is how I want you to remember me. A sexy well-seasoned dame drinking her whiskey and getting ready to tell you a filthy joke."

"That's how I want to remember you too," I agreed, and begged for the joke. Toward the end she wanted me to come one more time. It was urgent, she told me. There was something we had to discuss. But I was never able to make the trip.

Carla squinted out at the scene in front of us. "I think Dad and the boys must be paying for some of it." I'd actually assumed my sister had thrown some cash in the kitty. Of all the cousins she was the big success story, at least in terms of how much money she made. She was the youngest partner in a fancy Philly law firm, the mother of gorgeous twin boys with a beautiful, brilliant wife, and they owned a fancy town house off Rittenhouse Square. Carla had earned her success, but it was also due to Rosie paying part of her college and law school tuitions.

Rosie was my great-aunt, my dad's aunt, but she raised him and his two brothers when his parents, Santo and Lorenza, died in a car crash when Dad was a kid. So many boys, all of them little assholes, she used to say with complete and utter devotion. She'd never married, though she had a string of loyal and usually much younger boyfriends. I'd always assumed she was sick of living with men after raising three of them.

Excerpted from The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza. Copyright © 2024 by Jo Piazza. Excerpted by permission of Dutton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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