Author – Siri Mitchell
Though the story has romantic elements, A Heart Most Worthy is more of an ensemble piece. It tells the story of three young Italian immigrants working in an elegant Boston dress shop. Julietta,Annamaria, and Luciana spend their days in the world of the upper class, but as they make fine dresses, they are only observers in this world. Mitchell does a wonderful job in this book of showing the gulf that existed between the upper class and the impoverished Italian neighborhoods to which these young women returned home each night.
We get glimpses into each of their lives, and we see bits of romance starting to blossom. In some ways, Luciana’s story is the most romantic, as she catches the eye of Billy Quinn, a young man from a wealthy family. Mitchell treats the social divide between the two with sensitivity, but there’s still something of a Cinderella-meets-her-prince feeling about this part of the plot. The manner in which Luciana tries to care for her grandmother also made her an incredibly sympathetic character.
I enjoyed Luciana, but I found Annamaria’s conflicted story most compelling. Annamaria starts to fall for the grocer’s son across the street. Unfortunately, he is Sicilian and at that time, Sicilians are looked down upon by immigrants from other parts of Italy as being rough and backward. Annamaria must keep the budding courtship somewhat secret, especially from her mother. After all, not only does Annamaria’s family look down upon the Sicilians, but Annamaria herself is the daughter whom her parents expect to remain single and care for them into old age.
And then there’s Julietta. Julietta struck me as the most restless of the three women, and also the most flirtatious. in some ways, she struggles with anger that her family isn’t more American, and she tries to rebel against the traditional norms in her family home. She falls in with a mysterious stranger calling himself Angelo and soon finds herself in over her head in a dangerous plot.
Overall, the storytelling in this book worked for me. The author weaves the various plots in and around each other skillfully, telling a story of mistakes made and lessons learned against a background of immigrant families finding their way in a new land. In addition, while the three young women are obviously very different, Mitchell creates an atmosphere in which it feels believable that they could be friends. The subplot involving the anarchists felt a little melodramatic and the ending of the book was just a little too pat. However, A Heart Most Worthy tells an enjoyable story overall.
Rating – 3.5 stars