Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano


I love New York City. I love historical fiction. I love novels that feature a female lead (specific, I know). So, when a book crossed my path that was historical fiction based in New York City with a female lead character, I obviously  immediately had to read it.

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano is based on true events that took place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s. The protagonist of the story is Giovanna, a young Italian woman. The story meets Giovanna when she and her husband, Nunzio, are living in southern Italy, in a small town, near all of their family. Yes, family – singular: Nunzio and Giovanna are cousins. So when Nunzio goes off to make something of himself in America and send money back to Italy to support Giovanna and their parents, he obviously somehow gets killed. Because we can’t have a happy ending when there are incestuous activities at play. Apparently.

So, when Nunzio is killed, Giovanna boards a ship and emigrates from Italy to America to see where her husband was killed and seek retribution. To make a long story short, as a result of these retributions sought, Giovanna and her family become targets of the Black Hand (a pre-Mafia). The Black Hand extorts and – in effect – temporarily destroys Giovanna’s family. But it doesn’t end in that destruction… and how do I know that? Because Giovanna’s story is based on Fabiano’s – the author’s – great-grandmother’s life. So at least we know with relative (aka 100%) certainty that it doesn’t all end in tragedy.

I would give Elizabeth Street four out of five stars. It was good, it wasn’t great. I enjoyed the novel immensely, but it was not one of my all-time favorites (unlike Golden Son – I still haven’t recovered from how much I loved that book!). I found the story dragging at times and was annoyed by the brief intermittent jumps forwards in time (the novel’s chapters randomly go back and forth between Giovanna’s story and Giovanna’s great-grandaughter’s story). However, the story was an interesting one – albeit a horrifying and terrifying account of what life was truly like in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 20th century for immigrants – and I believe Fabiano’s novel is definitely worth reading.

What are you currently reading? Please share in the comments and let me know if you would recommend whatever novel is currently gracing your nightstand.