These nine superbly crafted stories, set primarily in Pittsburgh's Italian American neighborhoods, concentrate on families, on the poignant nature of father-daughter relationships, and on the fate of those who are refugees from their physical or spiritual communities. “Love is born only out of wreckage,” Manfredi's characters declare bravely. Her vigorous families are both the wrecking crews and the architects of the human foundation.
In “The Projectionist,” a displaced Sicilian is forced to confront the family he lost in war-torn Italy at the same time that his current family is disintegrating; his disillusionment with the American dream overwhelms him when his oldest daughter exchanges Old World values for the hippie-inspired climate of permissiveness. Ten-year-old Elena, in “Bocci,” takes the teachings of her strict Catholic upbringing to the extreme, and it is her devoutness that is cruelly used against her when violence compels her to reject becoming “a nun or a saint.” The father in “Tall Pittsburgh” sends his daughter to charm school at Sears, then enters her in a beauty pageant for tall women. Distraught in spite of her second-place win, he begins to relive his grief over the death of his beautiful wife.
Many of Manfredi's vital, luminous characters are outsiders, dispossessed by their inability to bridge the gap between the self and others, forced to deal with loss through death and lapse of faith, yet always managing to survive despite their place on the bewildering margins. Manfredi reveals an affirmation, finally, that hope is a permanent possession of every human spirit.