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Reviewed by Steven Robson for Readers' Favorite
Only Our Destiny by A. G. Russo is an incredibly immersive fictional plunge into the human condition, laid bare in stark reality. Spanning one of the most tumultuous periods in history, leading up to and through the Second World War, we are afforded a privileged glimpse into the lives of Italian families, originating in the small southern fishing port of Punto Roccioso. These poor people endure events both horrific in scale and indiscriminate in effect: events like the Spanish flu, which killed millions, the Great Depression, the racial laws introduced by a fascist regime stripping rights from citizens, the Second World War, and underlying all of these, insidious poverty that seems to affect the entire population living in southern Italy. The focus of this remarkable story is Anna-Raffaela Coriello. When she is forced to marry Giuseppe Giacomo Esposito, an unending series of events follows that will tear at the hearts of those involved, and those reading this epic tale.
A. G. Russo’s Only Our Destiny is without doubt a powerful read; one I would put up there with the best I have had the pleasure to experience. What shines through more than anything for me is the absolute grace and dignity Raffaela manages to maintain in the face of the extreme and desperate experience her life becomes. To me, one sentence from this book conveys the depth of despair no one can truly understand without actually experiencing it: "Beauty became a luxury that mattered less than a crust of bread." I learned so much from reading Only Our Destiny, but the most uplifting message of all concerned the human spirit and the capacity of some people to surmount indescribable pain and suffering, bringing those they love with them on a journey to a new world.