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Reviews of The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

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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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2024, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

From bestselling author and award-winning journalist Jo Piazza, comes a transporting novel rooted in the author's own family history about a long-awaited trip to Sicily, a disputed inheritance, and a family secret that some will kill to protect ...

Sara Marsala barely knows who she is anymore after the failure of her business and marriage. On top of that, her beloved great-aunt Rosie passes away, leaving Sara bereft with grief. But Aunt Rosie's death also opens an escape from her life and a window into the past by way of a plane ticket to Sicily, a deed to a possibly valuable plot of land, and a bombshell family secret. Rosie believes Sara's great-grandmother Serafina, the family matriarch who was left behind while her husband worked in America, didn't die of illness as family lore has it ... she was murdered.

Thus begins a twist-filled adventure that takes Sara all over the picturesque Italian countryside as she races to solve a mystery and learn the story of Serafina—a feisty and headstrong young woman in the early 1900s thrust into motherhood in her teens, who fought for a better life not just for herself but for all the women of her small village. Unsurprisingly the more she challenges the status quo, the more she finds herself in danger.

As Sara discovers more about Serafina, she also realizes she is coming head-to-head with the same menacing forces that took down her great-grandmother. At once an immersive multigenerational mystery and an ode to the undaunted heroism of everyday women, The Sicilian Inheritance is an atmospheric, page-turning delight.


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 ...

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In her author's note, Jo Piazza divulges that this story was inspired by her own family's history; the construction of the female characters—Serafina in particular—makes it clear that the novel is a passion project. While Serafina's historical chapters marginally outshine Sara's mystery narrative, the whole book comes together as a propulsive family saga and potent commentary on the deep roots of Italian patriarchy. Set against the beautifully evoked landscape of the Sicilian countryside, The Sicilian Inheritance is the perfect captivating summer read...continued

Full Review (570 words)

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(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

A murder, a mysterious inheritance, and the backdrop of Italy? Sign us up!

"The Sicilian Inheritance is a thrilling adventure throughout a beautiful landscape that tells the stories of two women who persevered despite the many factors working against them. It's enjoyable, satisfying, but also motivating. It might just inspire more underestimated women to make bold moves, defy the odds, and redefine success on their own terms.

Town and Country
Jo Piazza's book is a charming page turner packed with wit and wicked twists that will keep readers engrossed.

New York Times
A Journey to the Boot of Italy, With Murder, Romance and Ricotta ... By Page 53, I put the book down, but not for long. I simply had to go online and search for flights to Italy... . Here, Sicily shimmers off the page, utterly enticing — azure waters for swimming, hunky Italian chefs ... I enjoyed Piazza's twisty narrative and complicated characters, especially her contemporary women, who are strong and feisty — not so different from Updike's lost, lusty Rabbit. It was a joy to read about Piazza's heroines loving hard, eating well and blowing themselves kisses in the mirror.

The Washington Post
Moving back and forth in time, Piazza smoothly blends a mystery deep into the heart of a page-turning family chronicle.

Booklist (starred review)
Piazza offers mystery and romance and great questions about who does what work in society and why ... Smart, adventurous, and impossible to put down.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[T]he stories are inextricably bound, most effectively through the way Piazza writes about the universal experience of what it means to be a woman and a mother. Fans of historical fiction, women's fiction, and mystery novels will be equally dazzled.

Publishers Weekly
This paean to furbezza, the "devious intelligence" of women, succeeds on all counts.

Author Blurb Emily Giffin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Meant to Be
Equal parts riveting mystery and engaging family saga, The Sicilian Inheritance will transport you to the gorgeous island of Sicily and keep you up all night.

Author Blurb Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea
The Sicilian Inheritance is an addictive family saga with a rich abundance of strong women, quick wit, immersive history, and page-turning suspense. What else could one want from a novel? With her wise prose, Piazza grabs us by the hand as we journey through the picturesque Italian countryside while our heart thumps in anticipation of what Sara will find next. Mined from Piazza's own family history, this novel is a lyrical elegy to the past and its influence... . Narrated by two powerful women who refuse to let others define them—Sara, a butcher, and Serafina, an Italian woman healer—will steal your heart and threaten to never give it back. Piazza is a master storyteller with a voice of deep wisdom, and The Sicilian Inheritance is don't miss historical fiction with a dash of Mario Puzo and a hint of Nora Ephron.

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Beyond the Book

A Brief History of Sicily

Map showing Sicily to the southwest of Italian mainlandWe may think of Sicily today as merely an extension of the Italian mainland, but the island has its own unique history that dates back thousands of years and reflects the cultural, political, and economic influence of numerous civilizations.

Because of its convenient location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has long been a site for merchants and travelers, notably the Greeks. Three Indigenous groups populated the island before Greek colonization in 750 BCE: the Sicels in the east, the Sicani in the center, and the Elymi in the west. The Sicels, whose origins the ancient historian Thucydides traced back to mainland Italy, spoke an Indo-European language, but the languages of the other two groups are unknown. At the arrival ...

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