The Fortunate Pilgrim
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The Fortunate Pilgrim

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,818 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Lucia Santa came to New York from the mountain farms of Italy because she knew there had to be a better life. But what she finds in the streets of Hell's Kitchen is a life to break a strong woman's heart. Two tragic marriages, six children to support by herself, a fiery-hearted daughter who insists on living and loving as an American, an oldest son who gets involved with t...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 21st 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1964)
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There are a few things about this book that will stick with me for a long time, and one of them is the fact that when I checked it out of the library a page was still folded down. Someone started but did not finish this book? Unthinkable! This book is damned near perfect: hilarious, tragic, soaked in olive oil and mischief. The idea that you would meet the Angeluzzi-Corbo family and then walk away from them before the story's end is something I cannot fully grasp. Maybe that previous library pat...more
Jason P
"There is a price to be paid,yet one dreams that happiness can come without the terrible payments."

I have to give The Fortunate Pilgrim a clear four stars because, not only is Mario Puzo awesome (may he rest in peace), but the whole way through this novel I felt like I could completely understand the Angelucci-Corbo's and their whole familia. I mean maybe not completely-one hundred percent, but very close. I grew up in an European household and the similarities are surreal; down-right scary if y...more
Stephan van der Linde
An interesting book about an Italian family, in a tough neighbourhood in New York, in the 20's.

Mama Lucia is the mother of 3 sons and a daughter, in hard times.
She is raising her kids on the traditional Italian way.

While the boys are wilder and are up to mischief, daughter Octavia helps Lucia with the householding and helps her brothers to get them on track.

This story shows a decade of this family, where the children grow up. So it's a coming of age as well.

While making progress with this bo...more
Nicole Pesce
This story blows 'The Godfather' out of the water; in fact, the matriarch/protagonist Lucia Santa was the basis for the Don, himself, and she rules her family with an iron fist. I absolutely loved how Mario Puzo seamlessly paints Great Depression Manhattan; you are also trying to cool off on Tenth Avenue with the rest of the residents of the West Side's Italian tenements on a hot July evening -- coincidentally, the same streets where I now work today. It's a quintessential American tale of comin...more
Realistic touching family drama.

I loved The Godfather and this book is a favorite as well. This is a story of an Italian family living in poverty and how they struggled through. It's not just about family members prevailing through tragedy, but it's also each member finding a role in life. It's an inspiring tale of a family in the Depression era and of family stife and love, sacrifice and pain. Looking at the family's struggle from today's wealth it is hard to comprehend a family never knowing w...more
Michael Heath
This book gives an inside look at an Italian family struggling in Hell's Kitchen (NYC) in the two decades before World War II. Some have said it is the prequel to the Godfather books, although not directly. Mario Puzo took great care in every sentence he wrote and his work reflects those efforts. This wonderful story was a great read and I highly recommend it.
A gorgeous, vivid depiction of daily life of one Italian family in pre-war New York. In The Fortunate Pilgrim, Puzo shares the joys and travails of Lucia Santa as an immigrant to America. In some ways, the book is little more than a familial narrative with only the timeline of life serving as its plot. And yet, the way Puzo lays bare the shortcomings of this family, tempers their triumphs, describes inter-family relationships, all while recreating the New York of long ago, you will not miss the...more
Megan M.
The first assigned reading that I really sped through and wanted to read. I seriously couldn't wait until I could read the next section. Full of suspense and the ending is perfect. You are left punched in the gut, but also satisfied. It's weird, but that's why I love this book, because I didn't know what to expect.
An Italian family is assimilating to the United States (well, most of them). Lucia Santa, the protagonist and mother, stays true to her Italian ways. All she wants is the American Dre...more
It has been years since I read The Godfather, the book that made Mario Puzo famous. But this novel was considered by him to be his finest work. If you enjoyed The Godfather, you should check out this book about the struggles of an Italian immigrant family who lived in The West side of New York, or Hell's Kitchen. The heroine, Lucia Santa, is said to have been inspired by Puzo's own mother. He has such a gift of so vividly describing characters and place, that the reader is transported there, and...more
I'm a fan of Puzo so this didn't disappoint. I still think The Godfather is the better book. This one tells a truer tale of an Italian immigrant family. You can see why this one is Puzo's favorite and the one he's most proud of. Does a great job of capturing the particular time and place. Not that I was in NYC pre WWII, but it seemed that there were details were specific to that period.
Mario Puzo is the master of the strangely enthralling read. His prose is straight-forward and clear, but full of emotion--an offshoot of his Italian heritage? This has the same beautiful writing of the Godfather, but with a stronger family focus, and with Lucia Santa as an effective Godfather stand-in. Great glimpse of Italian-Americans in the early 20th century.
Siddhartha Ramachandran
Okay..Let me thoroughly justify why i gave such an 'Out of the crowd' rating.

I have been a big fan of Puzo's work. Last don, Omerta, godfather etc. Hence I decided I would go for this one expecting the same kind of reading experience as I got from the others. But I was failed.

The story is absolutely not interesting. There is nothing I felt while reading that made me wanna turn a page and go ahead. The story is based on an immigrant and her struggles. Simple. The story did not hold any spice with...more
Very different from others Puzo's books I had read. But I liked it very much. It was nice to read about italians in USA and the lifestyle of 50's and 60's. I recommend this for all who are interested past lifestyle and italians.
I cannot believe my mother allowed me to read The Godfather when I was only 14 years old. The book was published in 1969 and the movie came out in 1972. I recall the horrific violence (the book was even worse than the movie) but I remember loving them both. I was also reading and viewing A Clockwork Orange around this time. And I can't forget Bonnie and Clyde. The bad thing is they all glamorized violence. Made it sexy.

I recently heard about this book on NPR where it was hailed as the quintessen...more
Jennifer Garcia
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I believe this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Puzo takes us on the journey of a mother who came to American from Italy with a husband she barely knew. The journey is her caring for and raising her children in NY. The stereotypes and prejudices were strong back then even between the Italians themselves. The struggles she endured in trying to keep her family together after her husband dies and her second husband goes crazy.
She is a strong, powerful woman that endured...more
Rebekah Franklin
First time through- a portrait of immigrants in 1920's New York. Stories of the mother Lucia Santa, as well as her children from the first and second marriage. The "haves" include the railroad, shipping business clerks, bakers... Other struggles against the police, child services/welfare department/government, the mafia, doctors, illness/madness, TB. Saving money to plan for a better future, moving out of the city, buying a house and moving to New Jersey. Education was thought of as important, b...more
I'd give this book another half star if I could.
I've seen this story described as 'the prequel to The Godfather' and is based in some way, however loosely, on Puzo's own mother. It is the story of a bride, Lucia, who is sent from Italy to NYC into an arranged marriage. From an impoverished farm, she is thrust into an impoverished tenement, wed to a man from her village she barely knew. This is Lucia's story, she is the fortunate pilgrim, with her marriages and her children and their future in...more
Kevin Zielinski
A surprisingly well told story that delineates the trying immigrant experience present within the early 20th century. Tinged with a bitter-sweet telling, the novel illustrates the trials and tribulations existent within a financially impoverished life. Puzo writes in a way where one feels a sense of reverence towards the character's haggard existence despite their position at the bottom of the social scale. Simply put, it is the story of a family, one that sticks together, one that deals with gr...more
Sarath Krishnan
The Fortunate Pilgrim is a powerful narrative about how a woman managed to raise her family from poverty in the dark days of depression. The novel is significant in many aspects: it talks about the problems of Italian migrants faced in the American soil, trying to save their distinct culture and tradition, but at the same time exploiting the opportunities offered by the country; it narrates the struggle of a woman in a patriarchal society, against all obstacles made by the society, she held her...more
Amy Snyder
So far I am pleasantly surprised. I am teaching this book in my Women's Literature class and this is the story of an Italian woman and her struggles living in NYC. The imagery and language in the book is what keeps you reading. It flows beautifully, and the relationship between Lucia and Octavia is reminiscent of most mother-daughter relationships. One of the better books I have taught in my class this year, and many of the students have really enjoyed it. Lucai is a strong character throughout,...more
This work of fiction moved me so much that I couldn't believe that Puzo was capable of such versatility. The impressive story about the struggling mother and her indigent family members, each with their own magnificent stories about challenging family ties, never ceased to teach me about how endurance with loved ones at several life crises strengthens your inner self. Each character being so very detailed and intricate, turned out extremely satisfying and lovable to such extent that picking one...more

Although I kept on reading, I suppose it's a good thing this book drew some sort of reaction out of me, and that was a load of sympathy for Lucia Santa, matriarch of the Angeluzzi-Corbo family. I find that in ethnic lit (what I've encountered of it at least) that women are hardcore - in that I mean they are made of iron, almost unbreakable no matter what kind of shit life throws at them. Pverty, struggle, and some sort of way out are all tropes to this genre. I couldn't stand most of the ch...more
Stephen Demone
This book painted a vivid and realistic picture of family struggle. Though the cultural and historical context is an Italian family, 1920s New York, the virtue and moral motivation of the characters in the story can be applied to any family, and serve as the "ink" that defines the outlines of each unique portrait painted within the pages of this book.

The self-imposed limitations the mother, Lucia Santa, places on herself keep her family together. Though any person would love to be free of the b...more
Thomas Strömquist
"Good storytelling in this pre-Godfather short novel by Mario Puzo. More drama than thriller. Liked the book fine, but i think it was too short; a tale involving a number of people and spanning many years kind of deserves more of an ending, I am almost expecting a "part 2" somewhere. "
While enjoyable, it is obvious this novel was written early in Puzo's career and lacks the character development and plot structure of his later books. All of the characters are one dimensional, never, ever acting out of character, never having any element of surprise. Physical circumstances change; the characters do not.
That being said, it's a pretty good story and told with flair. Puzo creates an atmosphere where you can smell the garlic and olive oil in the hallway as you walk up the staircas...more
Satyabrat Mishra
As I read somewhere, in a patriarch society like India, women are defined not by their individuality but by their relationships with a man- a wife, a sister, a daughter. Italian Emigrants are not very different in that aspect. But here Puzo carves an identity of a strong Italian woman, forced to battle the tides that have swept her from her Italian farm to an America, a land of unknown.

The Italian Patriarch values juxtaposed against the caprices of fate, she battles a lone battle with destiny, a...more
David Cain
Puzo describes this as his best and his favorite book in the new foreward from 1996. I would say that it was one of my least favorite of his works, although I did enjoy it. The focus here is on an Italian immigrant to New York City in the early twentieth century, and the events and troubles of her life over the subsequent few decades. Some of the characters are sketchy at best, while others are more fully brought to life. I didn't feel there was always a point to some of the scenes, but it was i...more
Jun 30, 2014 Wendy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm very excited about this one. One set of my great-grandparents immigrated to New York City from Calabria in 1925, and this novel really seems to mirror their experiences.
Interesting and entertaining but not earth shaking. I read it on a long flight from Tampa to Seattle and it helped to pass the time. A friend recommended it to me.
Amazing Story!

I suppose like a lot of other people I started reading Mario Puzo book the Godfather and just loved the story. I wasn't happy with "The Silician", but I was surprised by this book: "The Fortunate Pilgrim". For a brief summary, this is the story of Lucia Santa an immigrant from Italy living in New York City during the 1930's. Lucia has six children and a bad marriage. Mario Puzo descriptions of the section known as Hells Kitchen are amazing and his detail of the city and hardships t...more
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Puzo was born in a poor family of Neapolitan immigrants living in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York. Many of his books draw heavily on this heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, the military did not let him undertake combat duties but made him a public relations officer statione...more
More about Mario Puzo...
The Godfather The Sicilian The Last Don Omerta The Family

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“Charity is salt in the wound. It is painful. The state gives charity with the bitter hatred of a victim to his blackmailer. The receiver of free money is subjected to harassment, insult, and profound humiliation. Newspapers are enlisted to heap scorn on the arrogant bastards who choose to beg instead of starve or let their children starve. It is made clear that the poor seek charity as a great and sordid chicanery in which they delight. And there are some who do. As there are people who take delight in sticking hot needles deep into their abdomens, swallow pieces of broken bottles. A special taste. Speaking for humanity in general, the poor accept charity with a shame and loss of self-respect that is truly pitiful.” 4 likes
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