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Reviewed by Claudia Coffey for Readers' Favorite
Twice during the 1980s, Gilda Morina Syverson traveled to Italy in search of her parents’ roots. In October 2000, Gilda’s parents and husband, Stu, accompanied her. The journal that the author religiously kept now gives her readers the trip of a lifetime in My Father’s Daughter: From Rome to Sicily. Her father left Italy when he was 15 and had returned on numerous occasions including once as a soldier in World War II. Her mother was the first child born in America; her father had come from Italy six years earlier, her mother and oldest brother one year before she was born. Much of the story tells of the poignancy of retracing her father’s steps there when he was a young boy, juxtaposed with the writer’s memories from her earlier trips, and watching her mother “quietly watch the man she’s been living with for over 50 years as he moves through his childhood surroundings.” You see that the writer is just coming to terms with her parents as she “envisions her father as a little boy, playing in these narrow passages, like some of the young children we pass along the way.”
In My Father’s Daughter, Gilda Morina Syverson tells us what it was like to to attend a Papal Audience during the Catholic Church’s Jubilee year under Pope John Paul II. Then from Rome we travel via train and ferry from the Boot of Italy through the Straits of Messina to Sicily and the home villages of her father and of her mother’s people. Throughout our trip, we are part of the dynamics of this little quartet, and we see the happiness and friction of four very different people traveling together. The writer wants the trip to be absolutely perfect and we see disappointment and irritability when it is not. We learn of the differences and similarities between American and Sicilian customs. We amazingly see how family members a continent apart look and move alike. We read of the sad goodbyes at the end of the visit. And the food - the unbelievable food; like Stu, I would like the recipes too. Reading this delightful book makes me want to see the architecture highlighted by the soft October afternoon sun, and feel the ambiance of an October evening in Italy. For now, I will say thank you to the author for a vacation I truly enjoyed.