The year was 1879. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Nola, Italy. The DiNobili family, proud, imperious and of substantial means, joined the crowd of people in the streets, celebrating the Festa Dei Gigli. At the same time, in a rural village just outside Nola, lived the daughter of a family - poor, humble farm hands, bound to the soil and subject to the will of an aristrocratic land owner. As the result of a misguided love affair with him, she produced an illegitimate child who would one day through marriage become part of the Ferraro family.
In the early 1900’s, both families emigrated to America. The DiNobili’s occupied first-class cabins, and the Ferraro’s sprawled out in steerage. Both settled in the poorest section of Brooklyn, New York, known as Greenpoint. The Ferraro’s rented a cold-water flat in a run-down tenement, and the DiNobili’s resided in the same type of tenement except that they owned the entire building.
Years later an offshoot of each of these disparate families created a new family as a result of the elopement in 1916 of Paolo DiNobili, and 16-year old Maria Ferraro - much to the dismay of both families - the DiNobili’s because of their assumed superior social status to the Ferraro’s and the Ferraro’s because the choice of a husband had already been made for Maria.
This tragi-comedy is told in colorful and authentic dialogue - a heart-rending account, juxtaposed with infectious humor as a picture of the lives of the descendants emerges. Paolo (Paul) Nobili’s life is woven throughout its telling - from his violent birth to his outrageous behavior on his death bed 92 years later. His often displayed uncontrollable rages and undeniable cruelty toward his family when provoked is shocking. Paul’s aberrant behavior degenerates into a new and lascivious dimension when, in his sixties, he forces upon his son’s wives and his grand daughters his latest ignoble trait.
Almost 150 years of tragedy and humor experienced by these families is laid bare. Paolo never experiences the humor.