Based on true events, this historical novel is set in immediate post-World War II Italy. Southern Italy was devastated by the aftermath of the war and a program was set up to temporarily send the children of the poor to live in the north of the country, which had recovered more quickly. 7-year old Amerigo Sperenza lives in Naples with his mother, both barely surviving on various odd jobs and charity. Although he did not want to leave his mother when he learned he was to take the train to the north with the other children, he soon came to find there the type of family he had always dreamed of. He was shown love and kindness and given opportunities to learn and grow, and he developed a lifelong love of music from his adoptive father. However, when he had to leave this new family behind and return to Naples he found himself conflicted with guilt and confusion as he found he had grown away from who he was before. This is a beautiful story of what family can really mean, of self-exploration, and of what choices one has to make to become their true self. — Tambra Johnson Reap
“The innocence of childhood collides with the stark aftermath of war in this wrenching and ultimately redemptive tale of family, seemingly impossible choices, and the winding paths to destiny, which sometimes take us to places far beyond our imaginings.” – Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends
"Ardone’s beautifully crafted story explores the meaning of identity and belonging...recommended to fans of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels." – The Library Journal
Based on true events, a heartbreaking story of love, family, hope, and survival set in post-World War II Italy—written with the heart of Orphan Train and Before We Were Yours—about poor children from the south sent to live with families in the north to survive deprivation and the harsh winters.
Though Mussolini and the fascists have been defeated, the war has devastated Italy, especially the south. Seven-year-old Amerigo lives with his mother Antonietta in Naples, surviving on odd jobs and his wits like the rest of the poor in his neighborhood. But one day, Amerigo learns that a train will take him away from the rubble-strewn streets of the city to spend the winter with a family in the north, where he will be safe and have warm clothes and food to eat.
Together with thousands of other southern children, Amerigo will cross the entire peninsula to a new life. Through his curious, innocent eyes, we see a nation rising from the ashes of war, reborn. As he comes to enjoy his new surroundings and the possibilities for a better future, Amerigo will make the heartbreaking choice to leave his mother and become a member of his adoptive family.
Amerigo’s journey is a moving story of memory, indelible bonds, artistry, and self-exploration, and a soaring examination of what family can truly mean. Ultimately Amerigo comes to understand that sometimes we must give up everything, even a mother's love, to find our destiny.
Viola Ardone was born in Naples in 1974. A high school Latin and Italian teacher, she holds a degree in literature and worked in academic publishing. She is the author of two previous novels in Italian, Le ricette del cuore in subuglio and Una revoluzzione sentimentale.