Swimming in the Moon: A Novel

Swimming in the Moon: A Novel

4.1 9
by Pamela Schoenewaldt
     
 

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A new historical novel from Pamela Schoenewaldt, the USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Strangers.

Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging

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Overview

A new historical novel from Pamela Schoenewaldt, the USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Strangers.

Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging their warm, gilded cage for the cold winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland's restless immigrant quarters.

With a voice as soaring and varied as her moods, Teresa transforms herself into the Naples Nightingale on the vaudeville circuit. Clever and hardworking, Lucia blossoms in school until her mother's demons return, fracturing Lucia's dreams.

Yet Lucia is not alone in her struggle for a better life. All around her, friends and neighbors, new Americans, are demanding decent wages and working conditions. Lucia joins their battle, confronting risks and opportunities that will transform her and her world in ways she never imagined.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
Lucia D'Angelo and her mother, Teresa, work as servants at a quiet seaside villa in Naples until Teresa's eruptive temper costs them their jobs and forces them to flee to America in Schoenewaldt's touching second novel (When We Were Strangers). Arriving in Cleveland in 1904, Lucia and her mother struggle to get by in their new lives, living in close quarters with other immigrants, working long hours in poor conditions for little pay. While Lucia quickly picks up English and begins to excel in school, her mother continues acting out at her factory job, threatening their livelihood and Lucia's dreams of attending college. Evoking the challenges new immigrants faced in early 20th century America, Schoenewaldt illustrates Lucia's poignant struggle between her ambitions and her loyalty to her mother with striking verisimilitude. Once news of New York's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire reaches Cleveland, Lucia realizes her own neighbors deserve better treatment and helps lead a strike against the city's factory owners. A rich cast of characters and a timeless story of family strife bring life to this thoughtful and emotional historical fiction. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)
Pittsburg Examiner
“A must read for anyone who enjoys beautiful, richly drawn characters, and a historical setting so realistic that one would believe they had been transported to another time. A glorious, unforgettable novel, A+.”
Christina Baker Kline
“From the sun-baked cobblestones of Naples to a crowded boardinghouse in Cleveland to a grand vaudeville hall in Chicago, Pamela Schoenewaldt brings to vivid life a compelling, richly detailed world.”
Dana Sachs
A beautifully rendered and poignant family drama that teems with the life of early 20th Century America…Schoenewaldt has given us a whole universe between the covers of this book.
Jessica Brockmole
“Lush with historical detail, Swimming in the Moon celebrates the power of the mother-daughter relationship. Pamela Schoenewaldt delivers another novel full of richly realized characters, who transport us to the immigrant neighborhoods of early twentieth century America.”
Library Journal
Lucia D’Angelo and her mother, Teresa, must escape Naples and the Italian villa, where they served a gentle countess and her harsh husband. Their migration leads them to Cleveland, OH, where they confront 20th-century American urban life, fraught with language barriers, unfair labor practices, disease, severe weather, and prejudice. Their lives improve when Teresa’s beautiful voice earns her a position singing on the Vaudeville circuit as the "Naples Nightingale." Teresa’s career dissolves when her mental and emotional demons return, creating added hardship for Lucia. Against the odds, Lucia aspires to improve her status, eventually finding her own voice in the growing U.S. labor movement.

Verdict Though not completely new territory, as the author covered similar ground in her debut novel When We Were Strangers, this is a classic immigrant story that makes the reader feel good. Its strength as a historical novel is Schoenewaldt’s emphasis on women and their plight during the turbulent 1900s. The story’s pacing at times is uneven, but Schoenewaldt regains consistency through offering rich characters and colorful scenes. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/13.]—Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A mother and daughter clash as they try to make a new life in 1900s America. It is hard to say what this novel is trying to be: A coming-of-age story? A coming-to-America tale? A chant of justice, or a song of madness? In 1904 Naples, Italy, narrator Lucia Esposito is 14, the product of a rape that also left her mother, Teresa, sullen and prone to fits of anger. They live and work together as maids for a countess who enjoys Lucia's reading and Teresa's singing voice. But when the countess' stock villain of a husband tries to correct Teresa's difficult behavior with torturous "methods," she and Lucia flee to America and take up residence in Cleveland. Teresa gets a job dipping chocolates to subsidize Lucia's dream of graduating from high school, but like many immigrants of the time, they barely scrape by. And though Teresa's work conditions are better than the many garment workers in the city, her boss's advances incite her rage to an unsustainable degree. She quits and joins a touring vaudeville act as the Naples Nightingale, hoping it will make her happier, despite the less-than-promising road life. Lucia graduates high school and enjoys a brief stint in college, but her mother's predictable mental health collapse forces her to return to Cleveland to be her caretaker. The most promising thread of the novel picks up here, as Lucia becomes an advocate for the ladies garment worker union and helps organize the 1911 general strike. Doing so while caring for a catatonic mother has its disadvantages, though, and Lucia struggles against this role with unfortunate results. Her frustrations are understandable, but Schoenewaldt's brush strokes are too broad to paint Lucia in a nuanced or particularly sympathetic light. Exposition in general is clunky, and opportunities for describing the era in greater detail are frequently glossed over. A gift of a pineapple from Lucia's love interest goes by with hardly a mention. Whether Lucia had ever seen one before, we'll never know. Most successful as a primer on turn-of-the-century work conditions and union efforts.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062202246
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
12,913
File size:
1 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Swimming in the Moon


By Pamela Schoenewaldt

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Pamela Schoenewaldt
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-220223-9


Chapter 1
Singing to Vesuvius
I spend hours in trains now or shivering in borrowed Model Ts, bounc-
ing down rutted roads between towns strewn like rocks across frozen
fields. I wash in sinks and eat at roadside stands or from china plates,
served by ladies with more wealth hung on their bodies than I'll ever
hold. I speak in parlors and parks, taverns, churches, and drafty union
halls in the great Midwest. I can't go home to Cleveland yet. “Believe
me. You can win,” I tell those whose bodies are deformed by long hours
in factories and mills. My voice grows ragged and rough, harsh as a
crow's. Who would guess my mother was the Naples Nightingale?
I ask for water, clear my throat, and say: “This is 1913. Your lives
can change. Think of your children.” Workers stare, disbelieving. When
their doubts claw me, I hear my mother whisper: “Lucia, even crows
must breathe.” So I take a breath, plant my feet as singers do, and go on.
When women kiss and thank me and men's work- roughed hands press
mine, then the torments of this path, the jail slabs where I've slept, the

2 Pamela Schoenewaldt
betrayal of friends, and the ache for those abused when I'd sworn they'd
be safe, all these things have their purpose.
If our maps show rivers, lakes, or canals, I ask to see them, even
when the shallows reek and oil slicks the water. I stand on shorelines
and feel my body easing after so many hours of work. Inside laced shoes,
my feet are bare again. I'm wading in the Bay of Naples, that warm scoop
of blue held in a green embrace, watching the bright bob of fishing boats
and hearing peddlers' cries. It's my last summer in Italy, and I'm still
Lucia Esposito, passing out of childhood and content enough with my
life. Mamma and I are servants to Contessa Elisabetta Monforte in her
rosy villa that juts into the bay. I was born in the kitchen and never in
my fourteen years slept anywhere but on a narrow cot with Mamma.
Where else would I go? Lemon, orange, fig, and golden plum trees
filled the orchard. Lilacs and bougainvillea climbed our walls. On Sun-
day afternoons, our half- days off, we took bread and wine to the great
flat rock turned like a stage to the cone of Vesuvius. If Nannina, the
cook, was in good humor, we'd have chunks of cheese and earthen
bowls of pasta with beans. Tomatoes and sweet peppers that birds had
nibbled were ours. Ripe lemons dropped from trees; we scooped them
in our skirts.
“I saw lemons at the fruit market,” says a young man from the union
hall.
“Were they as big as two fists, with dimpled skin?” I ask. “Heavy as
melons and nearly as sweet? Were the skins warm from the sun and the
flesh inside cool as a sea breeze?”
“No,” he admits, “nothing like that.”
It would be hot on those afternoons along the bay, but not the
heavy, coal- thick heat of American cities. Summer in Naples brought a
soft, wrapping warmth. Our linen shifts, thin with age and damp with
sweat, pressed like veils against our bodies. Mamma was beautiful at

SWIMMING in the MOON 3
twenty- eight, with gentle curves, creamy skin, almond eyes, and waves
of tumbling glossy black hair. Young men with baskets of mussels cut
from the cliffs of Posillipo rowed by our rock, calling: “Come out with
us, Teresa. You can bring your sister if you want.”
She ignored them or answered back so brusquely that once I asked
if it was a mussel diver who had pushed her into the seaweed when she
was just fourteen and made her pregnant with me. “No, it was someone
from a costume ball. The bastard wore a mask.”
“Sing to me,” I'd beg in times like these, when anger darkened her
face and her body shook. Then she'd turn toward Vesuvius, the brood-
ing mound she loved so much, and sing “Maria MarÃ?,” “Santa Lucia,”
or “SÃ?, mi chiamano MimÃ?” from La Bohà me, her favorite opera. She'd
soften as she sang, letting me unpin her hair, wind it into braids and
loops or loosen it across her back. In my earliest memory, I'm plunging
my small hands into that silky mass and drawing them up like dolphins
from the dark waves.
On those Sunday afternoons, children played on jetties, fishermen
mended their nets, and lovers nestled between rocks. All were en-
chanted by her voice soaring and dipping like a seabird, weightless as
wind. I leaned against her shoulder. She held me close, our skin melted
together, and she was all that I needed.
I never saw signs that her mind was so fragile, or else I read them
wrong. Her sudden rages, the precious porcelain figurines that slipped
from her hands by seeming accident to smash on marble floors, the
count's threats to send us both away, and tense conferences between
Contessa Elisabetta and Paolo, the majordomo, were the familiar tex-
ture of my days. What did I know of other mothers? Only now, looking
back, do these signs speak to me as clearly as black woolen clouds over
cornfields tell of coming rain.
If I thought of my future in those days, I imagined us both in ser vice

4 Pamela Schoenewaldt
to an aging countess. “Lucia, if you read and do sums, you could man-
age a great house when you're grown,” Paolo said once when we were
alone. A wide smile cracked the solemn face he wore in public rooms,
and I was thrilled. But what would Mamma do without me? No, I'd stay
in the villa forever.
What would I do without the rock of Paolo's steady watching out
for us? Once I mused aloud how sweet our lives would be if he were
my father. Mamma and I were dusting the sitting room perfumed with
(Continues...)

Excerpted from Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt. Copyright © 2013 Pamela Schoenewaldt. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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