Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Book Review: Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano

A few of months back, our entertainment guru, Dez from Hollywood Spy (link), informed us about an upcoming TV series based on a book entitled Elizabeth Street (link).  After reading the brief description of the plot, I immediately knew that this was a story that I needed to hear.  I imagined the book to be relatable, juicy, heart breaking, and historically accurate.  It was everything that I imagined that it would be and so much more!

The novel is titled Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano.
The book is read by Angela Dawe.
The unabridged version is 11 hours and 40 minutes long.

book review of elizabeth street historical novel

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Book Review: Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano

This historical novel takes place in a small, southern, Italian village and in Little Italy, New York.  The bulk of Elizabeth Street (link) is set in the early 1900s and follows the true life story of Giovanna, the author's grandmother.  The story covers her young adult life, a tragic personal loss, her immigration to New York, and the horrors she faced with the Black Hand.  Throughout the book, the author flashes forward to her own childhood.  Normally I dislike as in really HATE timeline changes, but the author does it seamlessly while giving the reader sincere closure to each mini plot throughout the book.

As a second generation Italian-American on both sides and a real New Yorker, I can highly relate to this novel.  It took the author over 20 years to learn these "family secrets" from her grandmother.  Like the author, it took several decades and counting because many topics still remain taboo to learn my own family secrets.  That being said, discussing this book with my own grandmother had her near tears.  My grandma confirmed that this book is historically accurate and that the fear conveyed through the author is not only real, but something that she herself still feels today.

The main character, Giovanna, fought literally for her family her entire life.  She was a strong and intelligent woman that should go in the history books as a true heroine.  She overcame famine, deep personal loss, natural disaster, and the Black Hand.  I've always thought that the Black Hand and the Italian Mafia were interchangeable terms.  This book makes the difference between the two very clear.  Additionally, our modern day culture makes the Italian Mafia seem like an action packed fantasy.  Read this book and you'll learn how wrong that perception is.  The reality is that it was evil, heartless, manipulating, and more powerful that anyone could imagine.  Elizabeth Street (link) by Laurie Fabiano does a great job portraying the Black Hand in its real light and telling the true story of how a poor Italian immigrant outwitted them.

This book is packed with stories worth telling, but three things stood out to me the most.  The first mini plot that had me shook was the way that Italian immigrants were treated.  Job advertisements would list offered salaries by race and have Italians listed with the lowest wage.  Italian immigrants were also put into work and living environments that many times led to unimaginable deaths and no one batted an eye.  The second thing that stood out to me was the story of the famous NYPD pioneer, Detective Joseph Petrosino.  I can't say more about that without giving spoilers.  Finally, the third thing that stood out to me was the disastrous story of the tsunami that devastated southern Italy in 1908.  The author's ancestors passed along unheard of stories of this natural disaster that literally broke off large, inhabited pieces of land into the sea.

Since I'm trying to not make this the longest post ever, I'm going to end this review here.

What book have you related to most?


  1. The guru has not heard anything new about the adaptation, so I hope they did not ditch it as they do with oh so many of new prodcutions. Glad you liked the book!Did your pap put the article in his newspapers?

  2. That sounds like a really good book! My husband’s grandfather immigrated from Italy in the early 1900’s to NY, but did not stay long. He had a falling out with his uncle, who he had come here with, and went to St. Louis. He was always in the restaurant business. And yes, family secrets galore!

    I can’t think of any books I’ve related to. Hard question!

  3. I thought this sounded familiar when I read the title, then remembered that Dezzy did mention it a while back. I am glad to hear the book is worthy of a read since I do have it on my reading list as well. That's heartbreaking to hear that your grandmother still feels these fears deeply to this day. Hugs for her!


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