Cambridge Street Copyright 2017 and 2021. Forced to leave Sicily, the Tomaso family arrives in freezing, squalid Chicago at the dawning of the Roaring 20s. Home is now a 4th floor apartment in a tenement building on Cambridge Street in Little Sicily, known locally as Little Hell. Slaughterhouse wages, even after working twelve hours a day, barely pay the rent and feed the family. Survival is a day-to-day struggle but they are determined that their children will become Americans. The neighborhood crime boss runs the people and businesses in the neighborhood with an iron fist. His brutal enforcers keep everyone in line. When an act of unforgiveable violence is committed against his family, Paolo Tomaso swears revenge. The Don will not - cannot - tolerate disrespect and sends killers to murder Paolo publicly as an example. With the young father's violent death imminent and certain, Paolo and Gianna stand together - and alone - against the monsters that wait outside their door. Their actions will determine who they are as people and decide the futures of their children. REVIEW: "Decker's prolific story telling tugs at the heartstrings with his descriptions of love, honor, and dignity within Italian family lives, as well as shocking the reader with the realities of political and law enforcement corruption, racism, and the vicious, psychopathic doings by mob bosses and their henchmen. Decker's novel is a must read page-turner and once readers start, they won't be able to put it down until reaching the climatic ending."
Review by, Author Bud Monaco, and Publisher of Sopro Books. Review for the Italian American Heritage Foundation Newsletter
I highly recommend this novel but the recommendation comes with a caveat. Many of us whose parentage hails from the south of Italy and whose ancestors arrived in America before the Second World War have a tendency to romanticize the old country. This book shatters that impression of sweetness and beauty. The book might startle you with its explicit scenes of violence. Decker's descriptions of the life in Sicily and Naples is far from lovely. Actually, it's quite horrifying. The extreme poverty, mafia rule, unpoliced violence, ongoing vendetta, the absence of schools and medical care all combined to make life there impossibly challenging.
The Tomaso family, however, will endear itself to you. The love the family holds for one another and for their faith balances the surrounding evil but certainly does not sugar coat it. The family had to leave Sicily. Their lives depended upon it. They ended up in Chicago's Little Sicily, known locally as Little Hell.
Sadly, here they found gangsters working hand-in-hand with crooked cops, they found deep-seated prejudice against them, more vendetta and people being gunned down in the street with no police interventions. This was Chicago of the Roaring 20's, Al Capone's Chicago. The Tomaso family landed in an ugly place indeed.
The family once again finds themselves in survival mode. They realize that here, unlike in Italy, if they can get through this transition, there is a future for their children. It's all about sacrificing so their children can have an education and a future. There are schools for all and doctors when they need them. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
About the Author
Author Steven Decker grew up in a large, thriving Sicilian family on the north side of Chicago. He never forgot the family stories about the struggles of his immigrant grandparents: how they survived terrible poverty, life during Prohibition and their encounters with gangsters. He has woven many of those true events into an exciting fictional tale spanning a half century. "Cambridge Street is for the millions of immigrants from Italy and the world that came to America to give their families better lives," said Decker. "They helped build our country, feed its people and fight its wars. Now, with the passing of years, their bravery and sacrifices are being forgotten. We must not let that happen."