Amazon.com Review In 1995, two years after his grandfather whispered the name of his great-great-grandfather's killer to him, Frank Viviano visited Sicily to learn the events that shaped his namesake's life and strongly influenced his own. Nicknamed 'The Monk' for the garments he wore while robbing the rich and bureaucratic, Viviano's ancestor left little for the experienced foreign correspondent to follow. Plus, the slow-jolt journey of Sicilian lifestyles often ended in polite reticence or remarkable disorganization; even rudimentary information, such as his predecessor's gravesite, was lost. In a 'morbid tidying up,' Mussolini's local officials removed the remains of all pre-Fascists: 'In their zeal to launch the new millennium, the fascisti hadn't bothered to keep lists of the disinterred. The old tombstones were dumped into the sea, next to the limestone blocks that the fishermen referred to as 'Atlantis.'' In between assignments in Bosnia and the West Bank, Viviano learned to take a less direct approach. Guided by stories told to him in his childhood by his grandmother, he demystifies the region's bandit-rebel history, its current life under the sistema, and its creation of the modern Italian mafia. Viviano was already aware of his family's supposed connections to the mafia, causing him to look more carefully at the times that produced these men. In the process, he began to take a closer look at his own personal life: The dramatic narrative of ancestry is not erased by immigration. It is driven into a clandestine realm where setting and characters are only dimly recalled, or transformed into fairy-tale heroes and villains in the landscape of fable. The Monk, in this sense, had withdrawn into my grandparents' tales and the isolated recesses of my imagination, into hidden canyons where I could not directly confront him. Suspenseful and well balanced, Blood Washes Blood is an exciting and thoughtful page-turner, a remarkable story of family, mystery, and friendship. Viviano's writing is at its best when he follows the complicated trail of his family's past, and falters only slightly when he attempts to imagine his ancestor's life. --Karin Rosman --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. Read more From Publishers Weekly In a land steeped in family tradition, the rootless Viviano (a foreign correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle) looks to uncover a family secret: how his great-great-grandfather, a man mysteriously known as 'the Monk,' was gunned down at a crossroads in rural Sicily more than a century earlier, the victim of an ordered hit. In search of answers, Viviano travels to his ancestral village of Terrasini. He soon discovers that when it comes to the island's history, there are always two competing versions of the truth: 'one lies in the official past, the other in the folk memory and its poetic reincarnation in fable.' His book echoes this sentiment as he intersperses the rather linear account of his investigation with a fictional re-creation of events supported by his findings. Each complements the other, and the book is further enriched as, over the course of his clearly weighty research, Viviano shares a portrait of Sicily and its inhabitants. Of particular interest and, as it turns out, importance are his discoveries about the origin of what has become most strongly associated with the island the mafia, or sistema del potere. Viviano is clearly fascinated by it, but his own experiences with carnage as a reporter keep him well clear of any Hollywood glorification. Rather, he traces its evolution as a brutal yet organic power structure in a land traditionally ruled by outsiders. Viviano's conclusions seem both well reasoned and enticing, as do the results of his inquiry into the story of his great-great-grandfather a search that comes to a particularly satisfying surprise ending. And while, in its purest form, the book is a solid piece of storytelling and reporting, its greatest strength may be that while it begins as a personal search, it ultimately reveals the history of a people. Agent, Amy Rennert. 5-city author tour. (May 8)Forecast: Viviano's unsentimental but poignant closeup of one Sicilian family and the role of the Mafia how it began and how different it has become will appeal to fans of the equally unsentimental but courageous TV program The Sopranos. His five-city author tour is sure to garner critical and popular attention.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. Read more See all Editorial Reviews
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