The Madonna of the Mountains

The Madonna of the Mountains

The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (Historical Fiction)

Northern Italy in 1923 is the setting for this story of Maria Vittoria, a young woman about to begin an arranged marriage. We travel with her through the next two decades as Fascism and Mussolini take over the country and “Trust no one” becomes her mantra. World War II brings cruel Nazis and marauding Partisans, hunger, deprivation, and fear. Meanwhile, she is raising five children, enduring an abusive marriage, and doing what she believes she must to feed her family and keep them safe.

In addition to painting a picture of life in Italy before, during, and after World War II, this is a tale of a loveless marriage, misplaced pride, religious dominance, and the devaluing of women, not only by their fathers and brothers, but also by their husbands and sons. Maria endures not only political tyranny but also that imposed by the men in her life. Yet, she is a traditionalist willing to impose the same fate on her daughters.

As with any story spanning several decades, children grow up before you have a sense of who they are, things happen in the background, the main characters age, and, unless it’s a three-volume saga, you begin to feel like you’ve missed a lot. I care about Maria’s children because they’re Maria’s children, not because I know them as individuals. In fact, mostly, I don’t like them, based on the little I’ve seen. I dislike her husband, and because I’m judging from a blurry snapshot, it’s hard to tell if he has changed much after all these years.

Still, this is the story of a survivor, a woman who perseveres. It is a tale of the sort of hardships that drove many of our own ancestors to seek a better life in a different country. It is well-written and kept me engaged enough to finish it in two days.

Grandma gives The Madonna of the Mountains four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Advertisements

Maya: Thirty-Five Years & Three Continents in the Remarkable Life of Maya Sian

Maya

Maya: Thirty-Five Years & Three Continents in the Remarkable Life of Maya Sian
by Teren Hanz (Non-fiction)

I love it when a book combines a riveting story with immersion in another culture. Dew Angels was that sort of book, and so is Maya.

This true story begins with nineteen-year-old Maya, born and raised in India, attending college in the 1970s, working toward her dream of independence and self-sufficiency. Her parents, however, are traditional Sikhs, and when the opportunity for an arranged marriage suddenly presents itself, they commit her to an older man totally unknown to them or Maya. The marriage takes place within a week, giving neither her family nor Maya time to learn anything about the man, who is not the person they have been led to believe he is. What follows for her are years of psychological abuse and isolation in a dysfunctional marriage, life-threatening illnesses, and three children who are basically ignored by their maniacal father, even when their welfare is at stake.

What sustains her throughout is her own strength of character, her belief system, and her sense of duty. Eventually, she realizes that her husband will never change, and only she can make the decision to change the course of her life and the lives of her children. For a woman in her culture and circumstance, breaking with tradition takes incredible courage and is not without risk, but she finds the strength to do so. The last chapters of the book are her take on finding the power within and achieving inner peace in the face of tremendous adversity.

Grandma gives Maya five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.