Diary of Giovanni Vener

An Immigrant's Journey to the Heart of America (7)

Fiction - Historical - Personage
191 Pages
Reviewed on 04/07/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Diary of Giovanni Vener: An Immigrant's Journey to the Heart of America is a work of fiction based on real historical facts and circumstances, and was penned by author Michael Pedretti. Continuing a series of stories that chronicle the incredible origins of the town of Genoa, Wisconsin, and where its original people came from, we return to another tale of an Italian traveling to America to seek a better life. This time it’s John Vener, also known as Giovanni, who we find in an asylum as he recounts the events of his life that led him there. What results is a tale of the trials of immigration at the turn of the 19th century and the tragedies that sometimes befall us in life.

This was a surprising and heartfelt take on the origins of the families living in Genoa, Wisconsin. Despite having read much of the author’s well-researched works before, this one really touched my heart with all its passion and tragic remembrances from the perspective of its lead character. The bond between Giovanni and his deceased wife Maddie remains strong, and the poignancy of their love and the effect her death has on the man speaks volumes through author Michael Pedretti’s talented weaving of words. The emotional sensibility of the story mixes with incredible true facts about the experience of life during such a fascinating time, making for a fully rounded historical novel that has everything a reader could want. Overall, Diary of Giovanni Vener is a highly recommended read.

Karen Walpole

Diary of Giovanni Vener: An Immigrant’s Journey to the Heart of America is the seventh of a 12-book series called The Story of Stories by Michael Pedretti. All these historical fiction books present stories of immigration to America. This installment shares the story of a family that emigrates from Lombardo, Italy to Bad Ax, Wisconsin in 1856. The Vener family’s tale is told in the voice of a mentally ill John (Giovanni) Vener who has been locked up in a mental hospital. While there, John receives a copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman from a priest and the book inspires him. Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Dante visit him in dreams and hallucinations. John quotes Whitman and the others as he writes in his diary about his memories of leaving Italy, settling in midwestern America, and building his farm and family. The entries are often letters written to his departed wife. The picture of this family’s struggles to make a life in Wisconsin comes through very clearly as does his very disturbed mind.

Michael Pedretti’s Diary of Giovanni Vener is beautifully written and has an original approach to historic storytelling. Giovanni’s perspective of his family and its history, seen from the end of his life, after losing his wife and from a mental hospital, presents an interesting interpretation of what has come to pass. The references to Walt Whitman’s passages from Leaves of Grass add philosophical explanations and understandings of a madman’s memories, dreams, and delusions. Learning more about the little town and its settlers in part 2 of the book adds depth and background to the story of John Vener and the rest of the Italian settlers in Bad Ax.

Samantha Gregory

Diary of Giovanni Vener: An Immigrant's Journey to the Heart of America (7) by Michael Pedretti tells the story of an American immigrant who is committed to an insane asylum. While there, he is allowed to keep a journal of his life and the book follows him as he deals with his condition and being locked away. It begins in August 1899. Giovanni is grieving for his late wife Maddie while being treated for bipolar disorder. He is haunted by dreams and you can really feel his agony. It gives the reader a deep insight into the man's head and how he perceives the world.

Michael Pedretti has written an interesting book in Diary of Giovanni Vener. A lot of books will shy away from mental illness or portray it incorrectly, but this author didn't. It was compelling and it kept me reading. Giovanni is an interesting character and we get a look at his life as he remembers it and his time with Maddie. Books written in diary format are a real look into someone's head, their hopes, their fears and it is clear that Giovanni is suffering after his loss, which is not helping his condition. Back in 1899, of course, they did not understand mental illness as they do today and there were no medications to keep it in check. I think the book would appeal to readers of historical fiction books. The pictures included really added to the story and helped paint a picture of what Giovanni spoke about. I would definitely recommend it.