Summary and book reviews of Vita by Melania Mazzucco

Vita
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 448 pages

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Book Summary

The award-winning Italian author Melania G. Mazzucco weaves her own family history into a great American novel of the immigrant experience. A sweeping tale of discovery, love, and loss, Vita is a passionate blend of biography and autobiography, of fantasy and fiction.

In April 1903, the steamship Republic spills more than two thousand immigrants onto Ellis Island. Among them are Diamante, age twelve, and Vita, nine, sent by their poor families in southern Italy to make their way in America. Amid the chaos and splendor of New York, the misery and criminality of Little Italy, and the shady tenants of Vita's father's decrepit Prince Street boarding house, Diamante and Vita struggle to survive, to create a new life, and to become American. From journeys west in search of work to journeys back to Italy in search of their roots, to Vita's son's encounter with his mother's home town while serving as an army captain in World War II, Vita touches on every aspect of the heartbreaking and inspiring immigrant story.

The award-winning Italian author Melania G. Mazzucco weaves her own family history into a great American novel of the immigrant experience. A sweeping tale of discovery, love, and loss, Vita is a passionate blend of biography and autobiography, of fantasy and fiction.

Translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss.

My Desert Places

This place is no longer a place, this landscape no longer a landscape. Not a blade of grass remains, no stalk of wheat, no bush, no hedge of prickly pear. The captain looks around for the lemon and orange trees Vita used to talk to him about, but he doesn't see a single tree. Everything is burned. He stumbles in grenade holes, gets entangled in shrubs of barbed wire. This is where the well should be—but the wells are all poisoned now, rotting with the bodies of the Scottish fusiliers killed in the first assault on the hill. Or maybe they were Germans. Or civilians. There is a smell of ash, of petrol, of death. He must be careful because the path is strewn with unexploded bombs, lying right in the middle of the road like big-bellied carcasses. Dozens of empty cartridges, useless rifles. Rusted bazookas, 88-mm stovepipes, long since abandoned and already overgrown with weeds. Dead donkeys blown up like balloons. Clusters of bullets like goat ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book
A family epic, a love story, and a fascinating new image of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vita conveys a lost world that sparks the imagination as well as the heart. Just as the novel's characters unlock one another's secrets, readers will find much to discover and discuss in each captivating chapter. This guide is designed to enhance the experience of reading groups and individuals in exploring Vita. We hope that the following questions will enrich your reading of Melania G. Mazzucco's extraordinary novel.

Introduction
A major bestseller in Italy and the winner of that country's most prestigious literary award, Vita brings to life three generations striving to reconcile ambitious ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

....this teeming, nostalgic tale should find willing American readers.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Inspired storytelling drives this fictionalized narrative. Mazzucco also interjects nonfiction chapters that relate her search for family members in Italy and the U.S., adding a resonant sleuthing element that further distinguishes this literary take on early-20th-century Italian-America and enduring love.

Library Journal - Eleanor J. Bader

While the text is dense, rich details provide a harrowing glimpse into the era's political and social milieu. Winner of Italy's prestigious Strega Prize, this fascinating and moving novel is highly recommended.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Giovanni Pacchiano

A beautiful and moving saga, a lyrical epic, profoundly existential, full of illusion, hope, and heartache.

Reader Reviews

www.mirellapatzer.com

Vita by Melania Mazzucco
“The image of that city rising from the water and aiming straight for the sky will stay with him for the rest of his life - so near and yet so unreachable.” This novel written by Melania Mazzucco became an international publishing sensation with ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Melania G. Mazzucco was born in Rome in 1966. She earned a degree in Italian literature from La Sapienza University and a degree in cinema from the Experimental Center for Cinematography. In addition to her four novels (of which, only Vita appears to have been translated into English) she has written award-winning works for the cinema, theater, and radio. Originally written in Italian and published in Italy, Vita won the 2003 Strega Prize, Italy's leading literary award. She currently lives in Italy.

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