The Demons of Aquilonia is a journey through a verdant panorama of beauty and a rich tapestry of the generations of families that comprise a small mountain village in the Italian region of Calabria. Lina Medaglia does a great job describing the push and pull forces that drive domestic and international migration. The beauty of the land is juxtaposed with the regional accent of Calabria, the ancient indebtedness that is the result of efforts to gain valuable, arable land and the general lack of opportunity that causes an all-too familiar “brain drain” toward urban areas and abroad. Such struggles of the countryside could be understood and found to be relatable to any person hailing from the rural side of the growing urban-rural divide.
The story presented in The Demons of Aquilonia does not flow in a linear fashion, and this communicates well the point that the central character, Licia, is in simultaneous dialogue with her those that share her current life after immigrating to Canada and family and friends from her her childhood spent in Calabria. For example, within two or three chapters you may travel with Licia between 1962 and 2006 discussing along the way Licia’s accent and her perseverance in Canadian schools and the revelations of her mother’s belief in the ‘Giganteschi curse’.
Medaglia’s portrait of her time in Calabria makes you wish that you were George Clooney with a sun-drenched villa on the precarious cliffs of the Amalfi coast. Alas, the closest that I have come so far is the imported Blood Orange Soda I recently picked up from Target. But Medaglia’s portrayal of the fractious dialogue between the past and present via the stories of older relatives provokes one to pursue one’s own odyssey through a genealogical tapestry. The Demons of Aquilonia is an appeal to understand the richness and complexity of one’s own past as this may gift us with a more holistic understanding of our personal identity. Understanding personal, familial history is a key to a deeper self-understanding and thereby a more firm ground on which to build an identity that is inclusive of the memories of those that came before us.
Review by Brandon Copeland