Review

The Sisters Mallone: Una Storia Di Famiglia

by Louisa Ermelino

Read an Excerpt



Grazie, Dio! In THE SISTERS MALLONE, a talented writer has finally
created independent female Italian-American protagonists not afraid
to stand up for themselves --- especially with the men in their
lives. Helen and Mary, two sisters in the eponymous triumvirate,
are not long-suffering, lasagne-baking characters a la Carmela
Soprano. These broads --- and broads is the only term that applies
--- are tough-talking and even rougher acting. You can bet the men
involved with THE SISTERS MALLONE will toe the line.

Only one man, however, is a notable exception --- little sis
Gracie's husband, Frankie Merelli. When the sisters catch him
canoodling a chorus-girl, it doesn't take a soothsayer to realize
it won't be long before ol' Frankie will be sleeping with the
fishes.

THE SISTERS MALLONE is set in Hell's Kitchen in the '20s and '30s,
and Ermelino has a genius for the sumptuous details of her
characters' daily lives. She is also especially adept at conveying
the body language of her hard-boiled characters. Anona, the
sisters' grandmother, who reared the girls after their mother's
death, is constantly raising an open palm heavenward in frustration
for her granddaughters' wayward habits. But if the sisters are sour
apples, then the apples didn't fall far from the tree. Anona's
charm stems from her searing insults and superstitious explanations
for the problems that befall the Mallone girls. Her sweeping
denunciations and caustic wit make her one of the novel's most
memorable characters.

After being widowed, Helen begins hanging out in nightclubs and
lesbian bars, which supplies some interesting plot entanglements
for the novel. In an immigrant neighborhood where women have little
power over their lot, Helen and her wild sister Mary are often a
prime source of tongue-clucking and male speculation. It would be a
temptation for any feminist author to render these characters with
only heroic attributes. Ermelino, however, is careful to endow them
with all of the faults their vituperative nonna would be
quick to point out. Ermelino's men get the occasional cardboard
rendering, but at least not all of them are complete rogues, which
might be another temptation.

Readers who value authentic dialogue and brassy female characters
will delight in this author's latest work, a worthy follow-up to
the wildly engaging book, THE BLACK MADONNA. If leading ladies who
pack a powerful punch are your angle, then THE SISTERS MALLONE is
the book for you. Where are writers like Ermelino when TV producers
are formulating their next series?

Reviewed by Andrea Hoag on January 23, 2011

The Sisters Mallone: Una Storia Di Famiglia
by Louisa Ermelino

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743223330
  • ISBN-13: 9780743223331