La Strada Da Seguire: The Road to Follow by Susan Toscan is an emotional historical fiction novel that sweeps you back in time.
Susan Toscan, inspired by her own family history, has created a breathtaking tale that takes place in Australia and Italy. In the 1930s, families in Griffin, New South Wales, are popping up in a farming district. Italian immigrants have moved in bursting with ambition, knowledge, and commitment. News from Europe, though, is unsettling. While many are still reeling from World War I it becomes clear that another war is on the horizon. Families will be torn apart. Young men sent into battle. Can the world survive another war? Can the families in La Strada Da Seguire?
Whenever war is the backdrop to a novel, it’s a given there will be heartache, tough times, and destruction, both physical and mental. However, an author must create more to keep the reader’s interest. The characters in Toscan’s novel are the heart of the story, which isn’t surprising considering the author drew upon her own family history for inspiration. All of the characters in the novel are original and endearing, except for a couple of bad eggs, but every family has at least one.
Australia isn’t the typical setting for a World War II novel. The inclusion of Italian immigrants in a small Australian community sets the book apart from so many other novels in the genre. Fans of historical fiction will love the tidbits about a community that isn’t as well known or written about. However, that doesn’t mean that their stories don’t deserve to be read. They do. And learning about them enhances the reader’s understanding of the impact of World War II.
The book doesn’t dive in right at the start of the war. After the prologue, the author picks up the story in 1935. Hitler and Mussolini are already in power. There are hints that international relations are about to explode, but the author focuses on the families in her account. The anticipation of the impending war in the back of the reader’s mind keeps the reader locked into the book. Millions died in the war. Millions were injured. And of course, millions lost loved ones. This time period was truly catastrophic on so many levels and to see it play out slowly on the individual level, which the author has done, is so impactful.
While the author has cobbled together a moving tale, it isn’t perfect. Two flaws knock the reader out of the story. The biggest is the author’s insistence on telling and not showing. Telling puts distance between the reader and the emotions on the page. Being informed that a character is sad doesn’t have much impact. Seeing how a character acts sad pulls the reader into the story. The second issue is how often the author jumps back and forth in time.
Overall, the characters and turbulent time period will capture the reader’s imagination. This novel will tug on the heartstrings and readers will wonder what happens next.