By Al Kemp
Amid the first rumbles of World War II and the stirrings of the fascist movement in Italy, the newly married Antonio and Sophia board the giant ship Viaggiatore in Naples, and set sail for America and an uncertain future.
And so the stage is set for “Angelina,” a novel that tells the tale of two generations of Italian families along with their hardships, joys, trials and triumphs.
The novel follows Antonio and Sophia as they settle in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and build a modest farm into a 300-acre enterprise.
They worked hard and did back-breaking work. But it was their soil, their produce and their dream they never gave up on. Within three seasons their farm had become one of the most profitable farms in the region. The soil seemed to be blessed by God himself.
Even as they prosper in America, the couple feel drawn back to their homeland, and the passage of Antonio’s father is the occasion that pulls them to Teramo, where their lovelorn son Lorenzo encounters the lovely, enthralling and mercurial Angelina. The fateful encounter changes their families forever and launches the farm girl from her insular life in Italy and into a new world.
Angelina rarely laughed out loud, never taking down the fierce exterior façade for a man before. But something was different about this American guy she now found herself with. For the first time in her life she couldn’t control her smile. It was as if she dropped her shield and couldn’t pick it back up to protect herself against his charm.
One facet of “Angelina” that will interest readers in this region is the appearance of local touchstones in the narrative, including New Jersey diners, Wawa convenience stores, the Amish country of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Acme supermarkets. The prose largely steers clear of flowery, and each of the 31 chapters propels the plot forward.
Just as the saga chronicles two generations of Italian immigrant families, “Angelina” was fittingly written by two generations: Wilmington’s father-and-son authors John Resini and Ben Resini.
The Resinis wrote “Angelina” over the course of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic raced across the globe. The collaboration was an eye-opening and enriching experience for both father and son.
“We started writing prior to COVID-19 but given we were on lockdown for months, it did help fuel the writing and help us finish,” Ben Resini said.
The result of their labors is a sweeping and easy-to-read saga that deftly chronicles the determination of Italian immigrants, a story that should stir the soul of any of today’s Italian Americans, teenage readers included.
John Resini was born in Wilmington, the grandson of Italian immigrants. He served as a lance corporal in the Marines, and is retired after 35 years as a union meat cutter.
His son Ben, also from Wilmington, is a professional photographer and writer who enjoys traveling to Italy.
The Resinis have two more books scheduled for an autumn release: John Resini’s second book, “Little Italian Prince,” and Ben Resini’s first novella, “The Lemon wars of an Italian Seaside Town.”
“Angelina” is available from angelinabook.com