Berry Book Review: 14 • By Peter Clines; The Three Marias ‒ A Sicilian Story By Roger Armbruster - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the September 2013 Juniper Berry Magazine

Berry Book Review: 14 • By Peter Clines; The Three Marias ‒ A Sicilian Story By Roger Armbruster

14 • By Peter Clines

The daily commute on the train can get tedious and boring, as many of you who do it know. I entertain myself sometimes by checking out what other people on the train are reading. One day several months ago, I was sitting next to a young guy who was reading his book quietly. I was intrigued by the format of the page he was on and deliberately paid attention to him, waiting for him to get off the train so I could see what he was reading when he closed the book. My patience was rewarded. A picture of a lock on a hinge on a grungy door and the number 14 on the cover, that was it. I was hooked. I got to work and ordered it on Amazon. One word: Awesome. The cover comment states: A riveting apocalyptic mystery in the style of Lost By Craig DiLouie, author of The Infection. I was once again hooked (as my friends know, I am a diehard fan of the TV show Lost), and could not wait to read it.

14 is an apartment number in a building in Los Angeles. There are other apartments in the building, each unique. No two apartments are alike, have the same number of rooms or are the same shape at all. Nate rents apartment 28. He begins getting acquainted with his neighbors, Mandy, Xela, Tim, Veek, and Oskar, the super. Little by little, Nate notices things. There are roaches, of course, but they glow green and have an extra leg and they can only get so far away from the building before dying. Some apartments are locked, some have no discernible locks on their doors and some are painted shut altogether. The building is landmarked, but Nate can find no one at Landmarks that knows anything about why. The door to apartment 23 has no hinges. There are no power lines coming into the building. He also finds out that there were 26 recorded suicides in the building over 30 years, all of them in apartment 16.

The mysteries get weirder as Nate and his neighbors attempt to discover why. The book is riveting. And what they discover is reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode (Little Girl Lost by Richard Matheson). It is apocalyptic and presents a doomsday scenario the likes of which I have never read before in any other book. If you like a strange mystery, read this. I loved it. I think you will too.

he Three Marias ‒ A Sicilian Story

By Roger Armbruster

Two years ago, I traveled to Sicily with my family to celebrate my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary. The last time I went to Sicily, I was 16, some 30 years ago, and it was as beautiful as I remembered it.

We visited many small towns on that island, including Castellamare del Golfo, my brother-in-law's hometown. Castellamare is beautiful. It is a coastal town located on the Gulf. The views are spectacular, the air crisp and clean. The cobblestoned streets are quaint and reminiscent of past times.

Three Marias brought me back to that trip and my visit to Castellamare. The author, Dr. Armbruster, chronicles the lives of three strong Sicilian ladies, each named, Maria ‒ his past, his family and his heritage.

The novel begins in the 1890's, with Maria as a young girl who is forced to marry at a young age to a much older man not of her choosing. I was fascinated by how it happened; when her father refused to let the man marry his daughter, the chosen groom arranged to have her kidnapped. He kept her overnight, and while not harming her, nevertheless gave the appearance of impropriety, thus forcing the marriage.

Maria endured her plight, remaining strong and tough and raising her family, as many women still do today. This book follows the family into the new century. The early 1900's saw the family immigrate to lower Manhattan, then to Corona, Queens. Maria had a daughter whom she named Maria who subsequently had a daughter named Maria as well.

The snippets of daily life in Sicily and then again in America are expressed perfectly and realistically. To read about how these women overcame hardships and adversity took me into their world and made me feel as though I was there, at their side.

This book, The Three Marias, reads like a combination love story, historical fiction and adventure, with whispers of murders and Mafioso connotations interspersed in its pages. As a person of Italian descent, it is a history lesson, and as a woman, a chronicle of strength and determination.

I would highly recommend The Three Marias to anyone interested in reading about what life was like for Sicilian women back in the day, as well as to anyone of Sicilian descent. It is a trip to Sicily right from your reading chair.

Roger Armbruster was born in New York City and grew up in Corona. He earned his BA in English from St. Francis College, Master of Social Work from Syracuse University and Ph.D. in Behavioral Science from Florida Tech. He currently resides in Stony Brook, New York. Three Marias is available on Amazon, The Huntington Revue of Books and the Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, New York. I strongly urge you to buy the book, read it and immerse yourself in Sicilian culture.

September 2013 Juniper Berry Magazine

September 2013 Table of Contents