The Girls of Piazza d'Amore
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A quintessential Calabrian love story.The Girls of Piazza d Amore traces the lives of three village girls and the forces that lead them to leave home for a new life across the ocean. Set in southern Italy in the 1950s, Connie Guzzo-McParland s short novel walks us through the piazza and the narrow alleys of her own childhood, imaginatively recreating an entire world as seen through the eyes of a young girl who accompanies her friends on their evening passeggiate to the spring water fountain and carries their love notes to the boys they love. The joys of Calabrian village life are palpable, and so are its frustrations and heartbreaks, but this is a world on the cusp of irrevocable change, as family after family is leaving. And that s what is most heartbreaking of all.
hall balcony, waving his white handkerchief as he spoke. “They forced themselves into our homes at night, shoved castor oil down my father’s throat. They pulled off his whiskers until his skin bled raw.” The political animosity between Don Cesare and Rosaria’s husband, Don Mario, only widened an already existing rift between the two families. Though lands and ancestral houses were generally bequeathed to sons, wealthier families often used parcels of lands as dowries to secure good husbands
went up in flames. The church bells rang in alarm at about 10 p.m., and the whole village rushed to watch the building burn. The flames were uncontrollable and completely destroyed the building. The story told in our neighbourhood was that a group of women returning from the farms at dusk saw the mayor’s men walking around the building. The women later accused the men of dousing the building with gasoline, but this could never be proven. In the early morning hours, after everyone had gone to bed,
furrows, all along the sides of the ravine, into which the water overflowed. Some of the water fell into low troughs for watering animals. Most of it was channeled into a more recent addition: a large, cement basin separated into four smaller ones that were used by the women for washing clothes. This was the village’s gift to the women. Before the basin, the women had had to carry the lessiva, the heavy straw baskets in which the dirty clothes had steeped in a mixture of water and ashes from
as if in transit, in the labyrinth of my imagination. I know that stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. How – or when – do you give a story floating in space its final resolution? “Invent, invent,” is the writing instructor’s mantra. Is this what writers do when truth escapes them? Already, in looking back to my childhood years, I can hardly determine if what I remember are dreams or facts. What I’m certain about is that I and the village women I’ve known all carry a history and worlds
and join them. Maybe it was the song about spring and sunshine that had filled the air, but, one by one, all the kids and the adults from the ruga, as well as others who happened to be walking by, joined the circle. The circle got so large it covered the whole square. It went around and around, past Comare Rosaria’s house, past U Grancu’s, where Totu waved at us. The singing got louder and louder. I kept looking at the adults’ faces. I couldn’t believe that everyone – including my mother, my