With much trepidation, 13-year-old Geltrude Carmella DiLullo has just consented to leave her home in the village of Ateleta, Italy. Her destination: South Philadelphia, where waits a suitor she never met, but with whom she is supposed to spend the rest of her life. The year is 1899.
Thus the stage is set for “Life’s Journey,” a novel by Kennett Square, Pa., author Josephine B. Pasquarello that chronicles her paternal grandmother’s journey to Philadelphia as part of an arranged marriage.
Along the way, the young peasant girl confronts all of life’s obstacles, from her solo journey across the seas to overcoming illness and betrayal in a strange new world.
But as she boards a ship in Naples at the start of her journey, her mind races with uncertainly. Will she be happy in her marriage? Will she ever see her sister Christina again? Will her whole life journey be written in advance?
“I feel my feet walking but I don’t know how I am moving at all. I am going up the ramp to board the ship, and I hear someone saying, ‘Stay in line.’ I can’t see through my tears to see who is talking to me. I don’t know where to walk, so I follow the people in front of me.”
Pasquarello re-creates the events in her family history largely in the form of imagined diary entries that chronicle her grandmother’s real-life journey, from meeting her bethrothed Raffaele and his family, to witnessing the losses of life during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.
One of the things about “Life’s Journey” that will be of special regional interest is the book’s nearly 30 pages of photographs – images of the Pasquarello family as well as archival images of Philadelphia landmarks including Dock Street circa 1880s, a Mummers Parade in 1901, and the South Philadelphia Italian Market in 1920, with merchants’ stalls spilling out onto Ninth Street much like they still do today.
There’s more of the Pasquarello family saga in the 2017 autobiographical novel “Love and Loyalty,” which recounts growing up in 1950s and 1960s Philadelphia. Readers will meet the many characters in the author’s South Philly neighborhood, and also meet her mother, Romania Pasquarello, whose wisdom, hard work and compassion carried the family through hard times.
The author is the tenth of 12 children. She successfully operated several small businesses in the Philadelphia area over the years. Now a mother and grandmother, she enjoys traveling, especially to small villages in Italy, and Broadway musicals.
In addition to writing novels, Pasquarello is an engaging speaker and presenter who speaks on such topics as Growing up Italian, Single Parenting, Dealing with Sudden Death, Being both Mother and Father, and Burial. She has also contributed autobiographical short stories to Philadelphia Row Home magazine.
To learn more about Pasquarello and her books and speaking engagements, visit josephinebpasquarello.org