"Elizabeth Street" by Laurie Fabiano (AmazonEncore, paperback, 2010)

"Elizabeth Street" by Laurie Fabiano (AmazonEncore, paperback, 2010)

This is a multigenerational story based on true events. It's the dramatic story of Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the Black Hand, precursor to the Mafia, and how she triumphs over tragedy.

This is a fascinating story that spans from Sicily to New York at the turn of the 20th century. The main character, Giovanna Costa, arrived in New York a widow, her beloved husband killed in a preventable construction accident.

Through Giovanna we experience the hardships and prejudice that Italian-American immigrants endured. Perhaps the worst enemy was the Black Hand, which victimized its own community without mercy.

Readers curious about the past will be rewarded with a great deal of Sicilian and New York history and enjoy the story of Giovanna's life journey.

Libby Szymanowicz, Newburgh

This cross-generational epic novel is based on the struggles and triumphs of the author's family. The Italian immigrant life at the turn of the last century is told vividly and expertly with documented historical facts.

I enjoyed the historical aspects of the novel as much as the personal aspects. The earthquake that devastated Messina, Italy, in 1908 is told with familiarity. The building of the NYC infrastructure included details of the Brooklyn Union Gas Co., which encouraged me to branch out and learn more about the history of this company.

The career of Joseph Petrosino, the first Italian-American to hold the rank of detective sergeant, being promoted by then-NYC Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, is a big part of the main theme of the book. He, too, is worth Googling.

At the center of the novel is Giovanna Costa, great-grandmother of the author. Life in Little Italy and the role of the Black Hand fill the pages that you will be turning quickly.

Jill Clinton-Gilbert, Newburgh

This is an exceptional book that combines a rich historical setting and focus with a brilliantly fast-paced tale and one of the best books I've read with our book club.

The story evolves around Giovanna, who goes to New York to come to terms with what happened to Nunzio, the love of her life. This is a beautiful story, intertwining strong and memorable characters. It brings you back to the struggles and extreme prejudice Italian immigrants faced in our country. It is a page-turner that manages to bring the reader back and forth between the streets of New York and the villages of Italy. I have relatives who emigrated from Italy to the U.S., which may have increased my interest in this story. However, I believe this is a great read for anyone and strongly recommend this book.

Denise Bromm, Newburgh

This is Fabiano's first book as well as her ancestral story. The saga begins in an Italian village in the early 1900s with Fabiano's great-grandmother, Giovanna, as the principal character.

I became enthralled with the historical context of the story as well as the resilience of Giovanna and her family. While reading this story, it is easy to forget that the facts are drawn from real-life experiences. It's definitely worth reading, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.

Diane Halstead, Newburgh

This is an interesting account of an Italian family's start in this country at the turn of the 20th century. I loved the vivid details Fabiano used to bring me into the warm southern Italian sun, the love her great-grandmother had for her husband, and the pain and anguish of losing someone.

Having married into an Italian family myself, I found the references to many things Italian familiar and enjoyable to read about — for example, "malocchio" (the evil eye). Giovanna, the great-grandmother and main character, was quite a woman. Her strength and courage to uncover the truth about her first husband and deal with the Black Hand were really unbelievable. I strongly recommend this book.

Jean DiNapoli, Newburgh