Cover image for In the garden of Papa Santuzzu
In the garden of Papa Santuzzu
Ardizzone, Tony.
Personal Author:
First Picador USA edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, 1999.
Physical Description:
339 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Santuzzus are poor Sicilian farm laborers at the turn of the century who endure back-breaking work in the fields of a tyrannical landlord. Wanting more for their children and grandchildren than a lifetime of servitude, Papa Santuzzu and his wife Adriana push their seven sons and daughters, one by one, to immigrate to La Merica, a land of promise and opportunity.

In each chapter of Tony Ardizzone's loving tribute to Sicilian American culture, the Santuzzu siblings tell us about the family and friends they have left behind in Sicily, the trials of their passage to New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, and the uncertain, yet ultimately satisfying lives they build in their adopted home. Interwoven throughout their tales are the traditional folklore and songs of Sicily. In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu is a rich and vibrant addition to our diverse body of immigration literature.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gathered around a metaphorical campfire, the members of the extended Girgenti clan take turns regaling us in this robust, beguiling novel about family and the immigrant experience in the first half of the 20th century. Ardizzone, the author of two previous novels (Heart of the Order, etc.) and a story collection (Taking It Home: Stories from the Neighborhood), doesn't cleave to conventional narrative hereÄeach chapter is a distinct vignette, with occasional overlaps as the characters intersectÄso he depends instead on exquisite language and anecdotal charm to propel the narrative. The cumulative effect is of a kind of Sicilian Canterbury Tales, rich with fable and folklore and religion even as it traces a familiar pattern of immigrants struggling to survive in a hostile new world. One by one Papa Santuzzu sends his seven children off to "La Merica," while he remains in Sicily with his dead wife and his hard patch of garden dirt. But the gesture, intended to save his family from a life of poverty, inevitably drives them apart; in America, the siblings scatter from coast to coast and reunite only when fate and an unexpected funeral pull them back together. The novel, then, becomes a eulogy for a lost culture. Ardizzone nods to traditional immigrant tales: scenes of Ellis Island, sweatshops and brutal discrimination at the hands of the upper class. But the book's lasting power derives less from its pointed, perfunctory snapshots than from Ardizzone's sharp metaphors: when the police shoot a striking worker, for instance, she makes "a bird's nest of her thin, white fingers" to cover her wound; for most readers, that bird's nest will linger longer than the unjust death. Agent, Kit Ward. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Ardizzone's third novel is not your typical immigrant story. When the seven children of Papa Santuzzu emigrate from rural Sicily to La Merica, they do so one or two or three at a time. This allows Ardizzone, better known for short stories (Larabi's Ox, LJ 9/15/96), to travel back and forth in time and geography, relating magical homeland stories as preludes to immigrant realism. In Sicily, dreams mix with visions, folktales overtake events, witches cast spells on landowners, dogs and wolves talk, and ewes give birth to 87,000 human children. In the end, Santuzzu's grandson returns to the "garden," where Santuzzu will live again, time bending back on itself through the family's history. Ardizzone's fascinating work is an intriguing addition to the smallish group of Italian immigrant novels. More literary than literal, the book reads as if told by ghosts around an open fire. Recommended for literary and Italian American collections.ÄHarold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib. of New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.