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The madonna of the mountains
2018
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Summary
"A riveting adventure for the soul . . . just the kind of evocative historical fiction I love." --Sara Gruen, author of At the Water's Edge and Water for Elephants

An epic, inspiring novel about one woman's survival in the hardscrabble Italian countryside and her determination to protect her family throughout the Second World War--by any means possible

Maria Vittoria is twenty-five when her father brings home the man who will become her husband. It is 1923 in the austere Italian mountain village where her family has lived for generations, and the man she sees is tall and handsome and has survived the First World War without any noticeable scars. Taking just the linens she has sewn that make up her dowry and a statue of the Madonna that sits by her bedside, Maria leaves the only life she has ever known to begin a family. But her future will not be what she imagines.

The Madonna of the Mountains follows Maria over the next three decades, as she moves to the town where she and her husband become shopkeepers, through the birth of their five children, through the hardships and cruelties of the National Fascist Party Rule and the Second World War. Struggling with the cost of survival at a time when food is scarce and allegiances are questioned, Maria trusts no one and fears everyone--her Fascist cousin, the madwoman from her childhood, her watchful neighbors, the Nazis and the Partisans who show up hungry at her door. As Maria's children grow up and her marriage endures its own hardships, she must hold her family together with resilience, love, and faith, until she makes a fateful decision that will change the course of all their lives.

A sweeping saga about womanhood, loyalty, war, religion, family, food, motherhood, and marriage, The Madonna of the Mountains is a poignant look at the span of one woman's life as the rules change and her world becomes unrecognizable. In depicting the great cost of war and the ineluctable power of time on a life, Elise Valmorbida has created an unforgettable portrait of a woman navigating both the unforeseen and the inevitable.

Advance praise for Madonna of the Mountains

"The moral and ethical questions raised propel the story beyond the particulars into the universal." -- Kirkus Reviews

"It is a bewitching but entirely unsentimental portrait of one woman's attempt to keep her family safe in turbulent times." --The Times (UK), Book of the Month

"A solid choice for readers who appreciate layered family sagas." -- Library Journal
Trade Reviews
Booklist Review
Maria Vittoria is overjoyed when her father brings home a strong, handsome husband for her. At 25, Maria is practically a spinster. The First World War has reduced Italy's bachelor population, and Maria has been praying to the Madonna for a good husband. At first, Achille treats her well, but as they face struggles, he turns violent. While they open a small grocery store and expand their family with several children, Maria continues to pray to the Madonna, who provides comfort to Maria as Italy edges close to WWII, and as she is forced to make difficult choices for her and her family to survive. Valmorbida (The Book of Happy Endings, 2014) deftly portrays Maria's rising desperation and, along with her daughter, Amelia, her unbreakable strength. The two face unimaginable hardships and, through the love of their family and faith, persevere. Although slow moving, this novel is a well-written family saga that would appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante and those who like historical women's fiction.--Pearson, Lynnanne Copyright 2018 Booklist
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