Reviews of Carmela's Books
The Ascent is a sequel to Carmela Cattuti's first novel Between the Cracks and follows the story of Sicilian immigrant Angela Lanza as she builds a new life in America during the first half of the 20th century.
Many books about early immigrant experiences wind up sounding similar in their documentation of journeys to America and assimilation challenges and experiences in the nation's cities and small towns, but it's important to note that The Ascent differs from most in several key ways.
For one, Angela is just as concerned about preserving and cultivating her spiritual and artistic psyche as she is about adapting to her new country. Her journey isn't just about assimilation: it's about contribution and building a new sense of self.
The second thing to note is that Angela's life (based on the author's great-aunt's experiences) is one of constant turmoil and spiritual re-examination. She hopes to rid herself of some of this turmoil with a fresh beginning in a new land; but instead, it follows her. This contributes to a rich sense of immediacy and drama as she makes her way through this new world, continually confronting dilemmas.
Angela doesn't just face a new home; she confronts changing relationships and realities, as well: "Angela cried. It was hard for her to let go of her sadness around this relationship. She could see what would eventually happen and it created a deep sadness that she could not transcend."
Even her attempts to influence and change those around her, whom she loves, are fraught with controversy and the specter of failure: "Angela continued to sob and blame everyone for Speranza’s and Alicia’s decisions. She needed someone to blame, but she felt her influence was never noticed. “I worked so hard with Speranza and Alicia so that they would grow up and make good choices. It doesn’t seem to have mattered. No one supported me in what I was trying to do.”
From political changes and Angela's uncertain position as war looms and patriotism rises to unseen friends who promise her a different destiny, The Ascent's special blend of spiritual and social evolution and Angela's confrontations not only with her new home but her own self makes for an engaging, thought-provoking story. It's especially recommended for readers who look for more personal and social insights than the usual immigrant story offers.
Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
New Review of The Ascent.
am so enjoying reading about the life of Angela Bellini and her family over the generations. I just finished book two of this trilogy and cannot wait for the third to be written! The author's novels take us through the incredible multi-generational journey of the Bellini family. My heart breaks for Angela as she faces the real-life tragedies that befall her, yet you can't help but be inspired by Angela's strength and determination, and the deep faith that she looks to each day for guidance. I love that Angela is a real person, the Great Aunt of the author, and that through the letters that Angela kept over the years, as well as the conversations that she had with the author sharing her life's stories, the reader is treated to a beautifully written family saga. Thank you for sharing the life of your Great Aunt. There are so many important life lessons in Angela's story from which we all can benefit...Christina Hedges
Reviewed By Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite
The Ascent: A Novel Based on True Happenings brings Angela Lanza to life as she comes to America and adjusts to her new life away from the Sicily she knew. Angela is the force that keeps her family and friends together through good times, hardships, war, death and life. Angela has established herself as a very talented dressmaker, creating clothes for the rich ladies of the neighborhood as well as the ones who are not so well off. Through her friends and family we learn about the times of the day, the awful things happening in Europe and the approaching war. When Angela’s sister dies at a young age, she tries to be there for her three children, as well as caring for her home and husband.
The Ascent paints a picture of the times of the day in a elegant manner, presenting both good and bad, and gives a very real feel of the ambiance of the early 20th century. I found The Ascent to be both happy and sad and though at times it was a little leisurely paced, the overall story made me keep reading long into the night. While I did not read the first book, Carmela Cattuti did a wonderful job of filling in the holes and never left me confused about what was going on and what important things of the past I may not have known. The Ascent is a perfect example of a historical novel and is a book I found to be well worth reading
Between the Cracks: one woman's journey from Sicily to America
review of Between the Cracks
Jan 16, 2015
really liked it
The 'common' man (or in this case woman) is not usually a subject in literature and movies. We want experiences in entertainment that are thrilling (Red), fantastical (Fantasia) and out of this world (Guardians of the Galaxy). And just for the record, I loved each one of those movies.
Thank goodness Ms. Cattuti has seen fit to buck that trend and show us there is much in the 'ordinary' lie to be celebrated. Between the Cracks is all the more wonderful because it is based on the life of the author's great-aunt. But there's ordinary and then there's ordinary. In the book, Angela is the sole survivor from her immediate family of the earthquake and eruption of the Etna volcano in the early 20th century.
And let's face it. Back in those days, you did not zip across the ocean on the Concorde, or jet to Paris for lunch. People crossed the ocean by boat and it took at least a week. (I know this because apparently my ancestors have been crossing the Atlantic one way or the other for generations.)
Angela is a sympathetic character. She is left alone in the world at a young age, and raised in a convent. When Franco, an American of Sicilian birth, wants a wife, he returns to the old country to find one. And where does one find a virtuous young woman? In a convent. Angela is all the more attractive to Franco because she has no family, and he will not have to worry about her becoming homesick when he brings her to America.
Ms. Cattuti has a fine hand in the choice of her words. Bad things have happened to Angela, but she is not a victim. She shows us that even though our lives may not be played out in the pages and on the covers of checkstand magazines, that each person has a value of their own. I may never have the effect of a Mother Teresa, but I do alright with my own family.
We all live lives capable of falling Between the Cracks, but what we choose to do with our lives can lift us to the extra-ordinary. Wrapping us in the comfort and warmth of a favorite heirloom quilt, Ms. Cattuti's book inspires me to gather more information about my ancestors to add to my family's story