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The Fortunate Pilgrim

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  4,243 ratings  ·  299 reviews
Before The Godfather and The Last Don, there was Puzo's classic story about the loves, crimes and struggles confronted by one family of New York City immigrants living in Hell's Kitchen. Fresh from the farms in Italy, Lucia Santa struggles to hold her family together in a strange land. At turns poignant, comic and violent, and with a new preface by the author, The Fortunat ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published 1965)
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Anagha There is such a character in a Sidney Sheldon book. Actually it only seems as though Angel has a fat, ugly girlfriend-cum-agent. In the end it turns o…moreThere is such a character in a Sidney Sheldon book. Actually it only seems as though Angel has a fat, ugly girlfriend-cum-agent. In the end it turns out that the fat ugly girlfriend is Angel!

Unfortunately I can't remember which book it was.(less)

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  4,243 ratings  ·  299 reviews

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Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I would recommend this book to those of you who
-want to try Mario Puzo, but don't know which of his books to start with.
-are interested in Italian immigrant life during the Depression.
-like books about complicated family relationships.

In the introduction to the book we are told that it is this book that the author himself thought was his best. It is about his mother. He wrote The Godfather later. That one he wrote to be “a bestseller”; he had to support his family.

The book follows one Italian i
Asghar Abbas
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing

What's more beautiful than a book that is so personal, so wistful, so poetic, where Puzo is most vulnerable showing this gentle side of himself, where he actually dared to imbibe hope in such an unabashed fashion. All that he was, all that he wanted to be, all his nights, all of his days, all of his endings, his yesterdays and tomorrows, his Art, all his experiences and relations he dolloped them into this book.

Not his personal favorite (That's a spot designated for Fools Die, that makes me irr
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brendan Monroe
Sorry Mario Puzo, I know this is your personal favorite of all the books you’ve written, for clearly sentimental reasons, but it failed to captivate me.

Parts of this reminded me of Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale”, another book I failed to finish. I definitely have a sweet tooth - I used to think that drowning in a pool of chocolate wouldn’t be such a bad way to go - but when it comes to literature, I am not fond of overt sentimentality.

This was Puzo’s first novel, and the man who would later beco
Nicole Pesce
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second book written by Mario Puzo. Puzo was working to be a literary writer at the time. He said he was disappointed that he still had to work full time after his first book and then, after this book, had to work two jobs. Somehow The Fortunate Pilgrim managed to leave him in worse financial straits than he was in before its publication. In the book there are sequences in which an older brother of the narrator is hired by a local gangster to collect "dues" from local merchants. His p ...more
Jason P
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"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
Stephan van der Linde
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: it-is-okay
2.5 stars. It's obvious that The Fortunate Pilgrim is highly likely to reflect the early experiences and family's life of its author, Mario Puzo, when he grew up in the Italian community in Hell's Kitchen, New York.

Mr. Puzo also made it no secret that the story's heroine, Lucia Santa, is based on his only mother, a single mother who raised handful of children as best she could in utter hardship in the 1920s era.

Although this novel gives us a fine picture of the Italian community in New York, its
Phillip Elliott
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book merits reading; however, by comparison I didn't like it as much as some of Puzo's other literary works. To grow and live with this family was a journey, observing the struggles and victories of life as an immigrant during The Great Depression and beyond. The intestinal fortitude of the family matriarch was amazing. She continually moved forward, never ignoring or sacrificing her emotions, but providing a healthy outlet for them and then moving onward. Ultimately, her end vision was acc ...more
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, family
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
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Beautifully, honestly, and skillfully written. A wonderfully heart-wrenching tail of a first generation, widowed matriarch.
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fic
The Godfather would not have been born if it were not for The Fortunate Pilgrim. The book is so well written and poetic at times. All the characters are so well developed for a seemingly short book. That is how great Puzo’s writing is to me. There is so much substanance and depth in his story you would think the book was over five hundred pages.

It is easy to see when you begin to read this masterpiece about the story of Lucia Santa, why some has called the book the “real Godfather” story.

Puzo o
S.C. Karakaltsas
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it

It feels good to go back in time and read a classic. I read The Godfather by Mario Puzo many years ago and indeed it is a classic. The Fortunate Pilgrim, written before The Godfather and published in 1965 is no less so. But unlike The Godfather, The Last Don and many of Puzo’s legendary novels centred around men, this book is about an uneducated, peasant woman, Lucia Santa, plonked into New York’s Hell’s Kitchen from Italy.

It is said that Lucia Santa is Puzo’s mother and what a woman she must h
Carl Alves
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Fortunate Pilgrim is an immigrant story featuring Lucia Santa. Her family has moved from Italy and finds themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. In a somewhat autobiographical story (Lucia Santa being his real life mother), she has to go through a great deal of adversity as a single mom raising six children. The story is filled with tragedy: one son commits suicide, a daughter spent significant time in a sanitorium, another son is muscle for the Mafia. Despite all of that Lucia finds ways to ...more
Michael Heath
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've had the pleasure of reading this novel over the past couple of months and I'm sad that it's over. It's definitely a re-read at some point. Being a fan of the Godfather, I wanted to read something else of Mario Puzo's and this didn't disappoint.

Full of life, love, death and heartbreak it's a great read for anyone who is a fan of novels set in the Depression Era.
☯Emily  Ginder
I selected this book for the course I am teaching about the experiences of immigrants in America. In this case, the immigrants came from southern Italy to New York City. The author is best know for the Godfather series; however, Puzo considers this his favorite book. Puzo writes that this is a portrait of his family life, and the matriarch is based on his mother.

I have to say the book is very readable, but few of the characters were likeable, including Lucia Santa, the matriarch. She tried to ke
Vanessa Abrego
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hold this book so dearly to my heart. This is a great way to introduce yourself to Mario Puzo’s writing and I will be reading more of his books! It had lots of good talk-worthy themes like a strong mother figure, poverty, family issues, low-wage jobs, mental health etc. Overall, this is great book for those who are trying to learn and read more about Italian-American’s experience in the once-existing poor old tenements of New York.
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure why this Puzo 'heartfelt' work sold so poorly and the Godfather became all the rage, but I just couldn't muscle up any connection with this awful, pitiful, spider-like family - there's nearly nothing admirable about them. For all that Lucia Santa is constantly correcting and smacking and calling her children 'animales', that's exactly how they live - for survival, and nearly nothing more. Every dark and venial sin is explained away with the magic wand of poverty, every time that one ...more
Jennifer Garcia
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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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
I loved this audiobook, and feel that I have now personally lived in the New York tenements with Italian immigrants during the Depression. I can taste the olive oil, feel the overcrowded rooms, smell the ironing and the cooking on the stove, see the faces of the children and the crones that make up the daily life of a matriarch in such a setting.

It was a total immersion into a way of life and being that one could see only in the background of the Godfather films. The focus of this story is tota
Megan M.
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked 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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Like pretty much the rest of the world, I have seen the Godfather movies multiple times, but this is the first book written by Mario Puzo that I've read. It was beautifully written, and clearly material close to Mr. Puzo's heart.
This book is an homage to Mr. Puzo's mother and I believe, based on their lives in Hell's Kitchen as Italian immigrants (the children were born here; the mother was the immigrant). It follows their story for a span of about 40 years.
Mario Puzo's talent for descriptive w
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, italo-file
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
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Puzo's second novel...the one he considered his best, most literary, and most intimate. He also thought it was going make him famous...that wouldn't come for another 5 years when he published his third novel, "The Godfather."

Thoroughly enjoyed this book which he intended to be about a young Italian writer but ended up being about an immigrant Italian matriarch and her family in an Upper West Side tenement beginning in 1928 and running into World War II. The book concludes with the family's "esca
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: excellent-reads
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
Susan Potter
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting history of an Italian women who arrived in Brooklyn in 1828, to start a family and escape poverty in her own country of Italy. Soon she finds her status has not improved.. She continued to surrender to her husband's dominance, have his children, scrounge for food and bargain for necessities. Cook and clean and care for the family without a support system. Her first husband dies on the job before the baby is born. She marries again to find that he he has 2 personalities. She lear ...more
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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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

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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.” 10 likes
“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 some people who delight in sticking hot needles deep into their abdomens, swallow pieces of broken bottles. A special taste.” 0 likes
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