Canaries Can’t Cry begins in Sansego, a remote island in the Adriatic. The island features prominently in the first part of the story, as the Sansegoti’s character, superstitious, obstinate, hardworking, and moral, is endemic. (The people of the island are called by the Italian name Sansegoti)—It is a facticity caused by the lack of outside influence, for few people enter the island and even fewer leave. The Sansegoti are a race of hard workers, faith, and implacable mores. Work, religion, and inflexible social rules bring order to their lives and harmony among themselves. Problems arise when rules are broken.
Anita is such a problem. Her life changes when, as a young woman, she defies her entrenched father on two separate occasions. First, when she refuses his choice of education for her, and, second, when she marries the love of her life against his will. This sets off a series of events that earns her the scorn of the islanders. Still, she struggles to gain independence within the trappings of a closed culture and to restore harmony in a life that demands conformity. But neither tempests nor ill winds could sway the Sansegoti to reform their ways, for the island has hold its inhabitants to a life that is stronger than all the ills in the world.
Anita’s husband dies while she is pregnant with her third child. Her rich father refuses to help her, and she is forced to marry an old, opera-loving man for the security of a home for her children. In remarrying, she once again breaks society’s rules, as widows do not remarry, and disgust follows when she becomes pregnant with the old man. She erred and must be ostracized.
Only the advent of a World War with its frequent bombings and the occupation of the island by Partisans forces do the Sansegoti to change their ways. Able bodied men are captured to fight in Tito’s army, and fishermen’s boats are confiscated to build Marshall Tito’s navy. Famine follows, and a population of almost three thousand is reduced to one of less than three hundred.
Anita’s old husband is injured in a bombing of the cannery where he works, leaving him partially paralyzed. He promises her a home in Italy, where he has an apartment. The only way to leave the island is to escape at night by boat. The questions arise, How’s a crippled man and four children going to make a trip across partisan infested waters? Who would risk taking them? She entertains the thought of giving up her youngest boy to someone. That would lessen her burden and could make it easier to ferry across the sea into Italy—one child sacrificed for the good of the whole.
Here begins Anita’s odyssey with the hold of her memories that impede her moving forward and, yet, she must.
The story is told in two parts. Part 1 takes place east of the Atlantic with Anita’s daughter telling the stories she had heard she has heard from her mother. Part 2 takes place on the west coast of the Atlantic. Old world and new world collide, and conciliation seems improbable. The cultural gap is deeper and wider than the ocean. The past haunts Anita’s waking and sleeping hours. She tells stories of her life on the island to her daughter Antonia and imparts those values on her. Her daughter rebels, and that rebelliousness has an uncanny similarity to Anita’s rebelliousness as a young woman against her father. But those old stories have set roots on the young woman who now lives between the hammer and the anvil—the hammer hammering old values in her head; the anvil forging new ones.
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About the Author
Her short stories and travel articles appeared in various magazines and anthologies. She is the recipient of the Rana Poetry award.
Table of Contents
Part 1. The First Crossing—Anita
Chapter 1. Valediction
Chapter 2. The not-so-dirty old man
Chapter 3. The goatherd
Chapter 4. The last hour
Chapter 5. The road to Marano Lagunare
Chapter 6. War everywhere
Chapter 7. Marano Lagunare
Chapter 8. Romi comes home
Chapter 9. The screaming Gioconda
Chapter 10. Cats
Chapter 11. The curse of the gynic body
Chapter 12. The battle of the wills
Chapter 13. The magic act
Chapter 14. Children come and children go
Chapter 15. It’s a secret—me too one
Chapter 16. The last fishing trip
Chapter 17. From dawn to dusk
Chapter 18. Death on Ferragosto
Chapter 19. Another suspension bridge
Chapter 20. The pick pocket thief
Chapter 21. Genoa
Chapter 22. Flasher on the bus— Me too two
Chapter 23. One refugee camp
Chapter 24. The final curtain
Part 2. The Second Crossing—Antoinette
Chapter 25. Yesterday and today
Chapter 26. Nostalgia
Chapter 27. An American education
Chapter 28. Hoboken nights
Chapter 29. The secret factory
Chapter 30. Street smarts—Me too three
Chapter 31. Reruns
Chapter 32. A modest proposal
Chapter 33. North Bergen sequel
Chapter 34. Wielding power—Me too four
Chapter 35. Rome by night—Me too five
Chapter 36. Choices
Chapter 37. Waking up in America
Chapter 38. Marriage, college, and the white police
Chapter 39. Accidental Grandma
Chapter 40. Los Angeles
Chapter 41. The house on the hill
Chapter 42. Travels with the dying vagabond
Chapter 43. The silence and the void
Chapter 44. Homing instinct
Chapter 45. The yoke and the embrace
Chapter 46. Vivification