Where Honesty Never Ends.
Given Away: A Sicilian Upbringing by Marianna Randazzo
What a great book trailer—it definitely draws you in and makes one want to explore deeper into Given Away: A Sicilian Upbringing.
This novel took me on a roller coaster of emotions.
Conflicted: I confess to feeling conflicted about Tina’s mother, Sarina. Although towards the end of the book, she strives to be a better mother for her youngest two children, it doesn’t quite forgive the way she was at the beginning with her other children. Sarina does have moments when she feels some levels of guilt for giving Tina away, but it’s not powerful enough for her to insist on getting her back from Vittoria. It’s only when she’s needed for assistance with other family members that the deal with Vittoria was broken, and Francesco (the father) decides to get Tina. I don’t really think it was because they missed her and that’s the thing that bothers me: the fact that children can be bartered like property as if they aren’t human.
Dislike: My dislike for Gianni, Vittoria’s husband, remained consistent, even in moments when he revealed a softer side. He has to feel power by hurting the weak (like Vittoria), which goes to show how weak he truly is. He should have used that power to stand up for Tina when the German soldiers were pulling her hair. Instead of saying anything, he allowed it to happen. I worried a lot that Vittoria would end up dead because of the severity of the abuse Gianni would dish out.
Empathy and Sympathy: I feel these things for Tina and her situation, particularly the dynamic between her and Lena. Lena felt like that Tina had an advantage, since she got to leave and go to the country. However, Tina got the bad end of the stick. Because of Lena’s interpretation of Tina’s “vacation” it caused discord between them, and they never got back to the closeness they once shared before the separation.
When Tina would see her family for the holidays, they did “things” for her but I never heard any expressions of “love” expressed towards Tina. There was mainly focus on how useful Tina could be to someone else as far as her abilities. Lena ended up being used in the same way—she served as a second mom (in some cases, the primary mom) to her siblings.
I also felt for Vittoria. All Vittoria wanted was children of her own, which she could not have. I could understand her perspective—why the deal would have been of benefit to her.
The conflict(s) are prevalent throughout the novel (abandonment, sickness, warfare) and the setting and mood definitely made me feel as if I was part of the action.
However, I did see a few opportunities.
I would have loved to have seen more character development—a deeper glimpse into what the characters looked like (outer appearance) as well more detail into the inner torment of some of the characters.
One example is Lena. Did her feelings really start changing towards Tina once she got older or did she hold on to the resentment she originally expressed at the beginning of the novel? Did she really take pride in acting as a second mother to her siblings?
Another is Tina and Lena’s mother. How did her feelings evolve to where she felt she could be a proper mother to her youngest children?
I also wondered about Vittoria. How did her life change (better or worse) once Tina was taken away from her? Did she grow to love America more than Italy once she found love?
There are so many more, but these are just examples.
In some places, the transition between telling Tina’s story and doing flashbacks to the other characters didn’t feel smooth but a bit sudden and rushed. I recognize that it served to give background, however, there were certain parts where I had to refresh my memory on who certain characters were because of the spacing between telling Tina’s story of survival and interweaving some of the other characters.
Overall, this is a great story for those who cheer for the endurance of spirit and courage.
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