Orange Peels and Cobblestones
by Rose Marie Dunphy

Rose Marie Dunphy, New York NY, 2013. ISBN 978-0-615-69671-3.
Reviewed by Mary Jo Doig
Posted on 10/17/2014

Fiction: Multi-Cultural

Orange Peels and Cobblestones is the coming of age story of Marietta, born in Castellanetta, Italy, "under the instep of Italy's boot." She is the child of too-young parents, Stella and Antonio, whose marriage is abysmal. Each time they separate, Stella moves with her daughters back to her mother's home. There Marietta thrives, a happy child who views her life in Castellanetta as nearly idyllic because she is blessed with her grandmother, Nonna, who adores and nurtures both her and her sister, Pia.

Then one day, without warning, the darkest day of her decade-long life arrives when Marietta's mother, Stella, calls her into the house from her playtime outside on the cobblestone street. "Marietta, we're going shopping to buy you new clothes—a coat, dress, shoes, hat, everything. You're going to America!"

Marietta learns that her father's brother and wife, Uncle Paul and Aunt Teresa—whom the little girl has never met—have never been able to have children and want to adopt her. She will have a much better life in America, Marietta's mother assures her. The adoption papers have already been signed. Stunned and unbelieving, Marietta knows just one thing for certain: nothing in America can make her life better than the one she has with her Nonna.

Months later, in the middle of the night, Marietta is abruptly awakened and told to get dressed for her flight to New York in America. Numbly she obeys and soon a train to Rome whisks her, accompanied by her family, away from Castellanetta. They share a last meal in the airport terminal, Stella puts Marietta on her flight, and says good bye. Marietta is unable to verbalize her feelings of fear and the haunting belief that her parents and Nonna no longer want her.

Uncle Paul, a New York City policeman, and Aunt Teresa arrive an hour after Marietta's plane lands. Their new child has been sitting alone in the airport, unable to understand the new language, and watching people meeting and leaving together until the area is nearly void of travelers. Finally she sees them approach. Uncle Paul greets his new daughter warmly while his wife, who has never wanted children, is remote and far from welcoming.

Marietta is quickly pulled into her strange new environment when she starts school in Brooklyn. Her determination to master English astounds her devoted teacher, her new father, and shows how determined and intelligent she is. The reader then travels with Marietta and her challenging new family through her school and college years, her marriage to a wise and compassionate man, and the eventual birth of their daughter, Anna. As she holds her infant close, Marietta finds she cannot believe that anyone would give a child away as her childhood family did. She is thus propelled to find answers and journeys far, with her husband and child, to visit her mother in California, and Nonna, still alive in Castellanetta. And there I leave you to uncover Marietta's truth in this poignant, memorable story.

Rose Marie Dunphy was born in Castellanetta, Italy and educated in Italy and New York. She received a Bachelor's Degree from St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn to teach Biology and Physical Science and later a Masters' Degree from Stony Brook University extending her teaching licenses to include Earth Science and English. She taught Science in NYC and NYS schools for ten years and Italian to adults on a private basis. She is the author of three books: That First Bite Chance or Choice: A Working Guide Empowering Choice for Those With Eating Disorders, Orange Peels and Cobblestones, and The Scent of Italian Cooking, published a few months ago. (Many SCN members will remember Sister Mary Sullivan, r.c., longtime and cherished member of the Internet Chapter's writing e-circles #4 and #7. Rose Marie Dunphy was Mary's lifelong friend, soul sister, and writing sister. With lovely words, the author has dedicated this book to Mary.) You can learn more about the author on her website.

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