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The Women of Saturn follows the main characters of the debut novel, The Girls of Piazza d'Amore, from their departure from Italy in the winter of 1957 to life in Montreal in the fall of 1980. The focus of the novel is on the inner growth of the narrator, Cathy, as a woman and writer, and her struggle to reconcile the past and the present through her writing while giving voice to two other women, Lucia and Angie.

The narrator Cathy is now a thirty-something vocational teacher. As a favour to her old friend Lucia, Cathy accepts to take Lucia's daughter, Angie, into her class. Angie's rebellious behaviour causes friction between Cathy and her co-workers as well as with Cathy's live in boyfriend, Sean. On the day that Angie is to be expelled from school, Lucia is found beaten and goes into a coma. Her husband, who is suspected of the crime, disappears. Cathy manages to have Angie re-instated, and offers to take the student into her home while Lucia is hospitalized. There are rumours that Lucia's family through her brother, Alfonso, a successful construction magnate, is connected to the Montreal Mafia. Cathy's boyfriend, Sean, is involved in local federal politics and is running for office. He sees Angie's presence in their home as a political liability, and pressures Cathy to distance herself from Angie and her family. Out of a sense of duty and loyalty to Lucia, Cathy refuses.

Her living arrangement with Sean has been kept discreet from Cathy's relatives and paesani who still uphold strict moral rules on living together before marriage. With the prospect of Angie living in her home, Cathy gives Sean an ultimatum to marry her. He proposes, but soon Cathy realizes that he has done so for political expediency. She throws Sean out of the house while her family is busy making plans for her wedding. A co-worker, Bruce, who is Angie's English teacher, has been making subtle passes at Cathy and she feels attracted to him.

Meanwhile Angie's family's situation is also becoming more complicated. Her father, Pasquale, is located in his home village in Italy where he is arrested and makes the news there. He accuses his wife of infidelity and of having assaulted her after he learned that he is not Angie's father. He also makes some startling allegations of corruption involving his brother-in-law Alfonso and his associates that tie the Liberal Member of Parliament for whom Sean works to the Mafia. These revelations are brought to the attention of the Montreal papers by a journalist, Antoine, with whom Cathy has had a problematic relationship since her teens. She had shown him her first attempts at writing, which he dismissed.

As these events unfold, Cathy is determined to find connections between the past histories of the characters and their present lives, and Cathy is inspired to resurrect her old stories and combine them with the ongoing drama into a novel, and again seeks out the journalist's help and approval. The fragmented narration goes back and forth between present events at school, memories of the life changing ocean voyage she and her family embarked on together with Lucia as a young proxy bride, early years of their arrival to Canada, Montreal's Expo 67, political corruption in Montreal and media reports of underworld activity, with occasional references to the enigmatic “journalist” and his conflicting personal and critical opinions on the writing of the immigrant experience.

All of these elements come to a head during Halloween celebrations at the high school. Cathy attends a staff party and spends the evening with Bruce. He shows her a composition that Angie submitted to him with metaphors that seem to hint that others besides her father were involved in her mother's assault. Cathy suspects that the journalist has helped Angie write her composition. When she returns home in the early morning hours, Cathy discovers that Angie is feared missing. As she desperately searches for the girl, she discovers the underbelly of the city and the school. She finally affronts the journalist and has a final falling out with him. Angie's composition provides the hint of where to find her. Together with Bruce, Cathy locates her. Angie willingly discloses to police who was really responsible for the blow that put her mother into a coma. The novel has an open ending with Lucia still in a coma, and Cathy leaving Sean to be on her own. Cathy hopes to be able to give the silenced women a voice through her writing.

Reminiscent of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, but with a Calabrian flavour, the Women of Saturn is gripping, hard edged, multilayered, and as satisfying as southern Italian food. The novel exposes all the facets of the immigrant experience and its repercussions on its characters in a post-modern world.


The Girls of Piazza d'Amore [Linda Leith Publishing, September 14, 2013], the charming debut short novel from Guernica Editions co-director and President Connie Guzzo-McParland, traces the lives of three Italian village girls and the forces that lead them to leave home for a new life across the ocean.

Told through the remembrances of a narrator who, while attempting to pilot her own passage into young adulthood, accompanies her friends on their evening passeggiate to the spring water fountain and carries their love notes to the boys that hold their affections, The Girls of Piazza d'Amore is a warm, soft-focus portrait of childhood, culture, and the only constant that life ever offers any of us: change

Romantic, imaginative, and engrossing, The Girls of Piazza d'Amore sees Guzzo-McParland walk her reader through the piazzas and narrow alleyways of her own childhood in southern Italy in the 1950s, but ultimately "is not of either place, or time," says Giller prize-winning author of The Sentimentalists (2009), Johanna Skibsrud. "It transports us somewhere else – into the heart of memory, and what it means to tell stories."

A not-to-be-missed addition to the Italian-Canadian literary canon, The Girls of Piazza d'Amore will resonate with anyone who has ever grieved the confusions, heartbreaks, and complexities of their youth, be it on near or far shores.

The Girls of Piazza d'Amore is currently available for pre-order via Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and the Linda Leith Publishing website, and will be available via all major online retailers and in brick and mortar bookstores across Canada as of September 14th, 2013 ($13.95 paperback).


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