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The Vineyard on Mulberry Street is a saga of the Ghirardis, an Italian American family, who leave their roots in Armento, Potenza, in Italy to relocate to Mulberry Street in New York's Lower East Side. It begins with Francesco Paolo Ghirardi who comes to America in 1890 to live with his uncle who marries Angela when he was a young man and has four children. The eldest of the second generation, Catherine, develops into the beauty of the family, an Italian-American Scarlett ...
The Vineyard on Mulberry Street is a saga of the Ghirardis, an Italian American family, who leave their roots in Armento, Potenza, in Italy to relocate to Mulberry Street in New York's Lower East Side. It begins with Francesco Paolo Ghirardi who comes to America in 1890 to live with his uncle who marries Angela when he was a young man and has four children. The eldest of the second generation, Catherine, develops into the beauty of the family, an Italian-American Scarlett O'Hara; strong, independent and enigmatic.
When Catherine is nineteen, she meets and falls in love with a charismatic, powerful, political figure, Jack Paterno, at a ball she attends, but is warned by her father to stay away from him as he is married and has children. She continues to see Paterno despite the strong objections of her family, meeting in secret two days a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Jack cannot seek a divorce because of his close ties to the Catholic Church and his political aspirations, so eventually Catherine marries Dr. Martin Cabotte, a surgeon, and gives birth to a baby girl, Alessandra. Martin joins the Army, is transferred to Australia, and Catherine and her daughter move in with her mother and father in their new home in a small town in New Jersey.
Catherine defies the mores of the time and continues the forbidden love affair while living in the highly traditional Catholic household. Meanwhile, the family refuses to sanction the arrangement, and Alessandra must bear the burden of living with her mother's secret, as well as trying to shield her from her grandmother's wrath. The two of them lead a double life, walking a tight rope between Jack's orbit of WashingtonD.C., meetings on Capitol Hill, courtrooms, dockets and banquets and the simple, warm comfort of the Ghirardi house in Oak Grove with the grape arbor in the back, where the three generations live under one roof.
The story begins during World War II when patriotism is at an all time high and there are sharp distinctions between good and evil: as evidenced in the strict moral code of the Catholic church. We see America's home front; rations and food stamps, Black Market goods and swing shifts. Almost every family has someone in the Armed Services, never knowing if they will return. The Ghirardis are no different. Their youngest, Sonny, the family's "golden boy," is a naval officer on a battleship in enemy waters. We see the Sunday feasts, with O Sole Mio and guinea stinkers, tarantellas and Irish jigs, the wine cellar where the potent homemade brew is served to male guests who emerge glassy eyed and giddy and finally the grape arbor, the "soul" of the house with its lush grapes and hearty vines. There are the Saturday afternoons with Aley in the kitchen with her grandmother, when her mother is out with Jack, as she listens to the matriarch's stories. And the other Saturday afternoons with Jack, Catherine and Aley at The French Place, a restaurant, their home away from home, where the three of them almost feel like a family. There are the threesome vacations at fancy resorts, Wednesday dinners at New York City's restaurants, Broadway shows (usually with a "beard") and Jack's generous gifts. We become familiar with the eclectic cast of characters; Tot, another daughter, a cross between Snow White and Marilyn Monroe with her bosom jiggling Charlestons and Hick, her husband with his outrageous antics and whiskey "ho-ho-ho's", delivering Christmas presents in the late afternoon because of his Christmas Eve hangover.
The story progresses to include the Post-War years, the healing period of the fifties, then the colorful sixties beginning with Camelot and hope, the Civil Rights, Women's Liberation and Antiwar Movements and ending with assassinations, rage and despair while the lives of the family parallel the climate of the country. The tapestry, as seen through Aley's eyes, reveals