I am always fascinated with novels about women who have left their lifelong homes and families to follow husbands to North America to start a new life. My mother was one of those women, having crossed alone to join her husband in Canada. One cannot imagine the heartache of leaving the security of parents and siblings and extended family and live relatively alone. In Between the Cracks, we are given insight into the plight of a young girl named Angela Lana, the author's aunt, who was orphaned by the December 1908 earthquake that struck Messina on the island of Sicily and Reggio Calabria Italy. 123,000 lives were lost that day, including Angela's entire family. Angela searches for her sister, but cannot find her. She is taken in by the nuns in a local convent who raise her until she comes of age.
That's when a handsome young Italian American man returns to Sicily to find himself a wife. The moment he sees Angela, he is certain she is the woman for him. With Angela's consent and the approval of the Mother Superior, the wedding takes place and soon Angela finds herself crossing the ocean to a new life with all the struggles and joy that it entails.
This novel was an easy read, but full of poignant emotion, struggles, and simple joys. The author has captured the life of the Italian immigrant with vibrant accuracy. Angela is a compelling character. For her, life is not easy, but Angela embraces her new family and her new life, willing to work hard and succeed. Her search for her sister continues as a theme throughout the story and they return to Sicily years after to look for her once more. And then there are secondary characters like her loving hard-working husband, her misguided mother-in-law, her darling step-daughter, all with their faults and idiosyncracies.
I loved this book. It was enjoyable, multi-layered, and heart-wrenching. The scenes of the earthquake's aftermath were vividly described, bringing to life the devastation and feelings of loss. I highly recommend this book! Especialy if you have Italian roots. Unputdownable!