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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

A Novel

by Jo Piazza

The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza X
The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza
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  • Published:
    Apr 2024, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


The room was freezing. No windows, one rickety table, two metalchairs.

"L'ha ucciso?" the detective asked with an uncompromising glare. I was lost in a fog as I blinked up at the kind-eyed older woman they'd assigned to help translate for me even though I didn't need her. I understood exactly what he'd asked: Did you kill him?

My whole body ached. At least one, maybe more, of my ribs wasbroken, and the pain in my abdomen throbbed hot and sharp. Fat, salty tears rolled down my cheeks. Not for him, the man up on the mountain, the one whose blood was dried on my skin and my clothes. I couldn't cry for him at all. These tears were for me. For what I was about to lose.

Would I ever see my family again? My daughter? Why had I thought coming here would solve any of my problems?

The questions were merely my brain trying to escape reality because I knew exactly what happened up there.

And so, I nodded.



Two weeks earlier ...

I often tried to pinpoint the exact moment when the life I'd worked so hard for began to fall apart. Because there's always a beginning, a place where you've screwed up so badly there's no putting it back together.

It's what happens when you slice through the wrong tendon in a flank of meat. I ran a restaurant for years, but I started as a butcher, so I still think in terms of joints and muscles, the connective tissue of life. Cut the right one and you end up with a perfect steak. Cut the wrong one and the whole system breaks down. The meat falls apart in the places where you want it to stay close to the bone. Once you make that single wrong cut it's nearly impossible to keep everything else intact.

When did I make the wrong cut?

I thought about it, obsessed over it really, as I closed up my restaurant, probably for the very last time. I was so deep inside my memories that I didn't hear the knock on the door. The sound didn't register until it became an unrelenting pounding.

"Mommy, let me in. I need to come in there right now!"

Few things are more persistent than a four-year-old faced with a physical obstacle. Sophie's dad brought her over early. Jack was always early these days, probably because he was trying to catch me doing something he disapproved of.

My body lurched toward my little girl's voice. I flung open the door and the two of us hurled ourselves at one another with a feverish intensity, colliding in a smush of skin and lips and complete and total adoration. I never realized how much I would miss this little creature until I could no longer see her whenever I wanted, until my custody of her hung in the balance.

"Who's my best girl?" I asked her.

"Meeeee. Who's my best mamma?"


"You!" The part that both killed me and kept me getting out of bed every morning was that she meant it. This gorgeous, brilliant child of mine truly thought I was the best despite all recent evidence to the contrary.

Jack, my almost ex-husband, was certain I was no longer the best at anything. I could feel his bitterness as he stood behind Sophie and took in the nearly empty restaurant. The tables, chairs, and furniture I had painstakingly selected only five years earlier had been sold to a new place opening down on Passyunk Avenue. Various kitchen equipment was pushed against the walls, ready to be hauled off to the highest bidder. All that remained was our mascot, a massive plaster pink pig flying from the ceiling, its lips curled in a cheeky smile and the restaurant's name emblazoned on its flank, La Macellaia-the butcher woman.

The plaster pig was a joke at first, before he became the symbol of the place. Jack had him made for me by a local artist. Because for all the years I'd dreamed of having my own restaurant, I'd never believed it was possible. When other people told me it would happen one day I'd laugh like I didn't care if it did or didn't and say, "Sure, when pigs fly." Jack surprised me with the statue on opening night. I wondered when I went from being someone he'd design a custom pig statue for to a person he could barely look in the eye. It happened bit by bit, and then all at once.

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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  A Brief History of Sicily

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