“Our Good Name”

For an author, the birth of her book is a time of rejoicing. Especially, I can attest from my own experience, if that book is a historical novel that brings some of that author’s forebears back to life — gives these characters, who once really lived, a rebirth.

This week, here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, author Catherine Marenghi celebrated the birth of her third book, this one a historical novel titled Our Good Name, which brings her Italian immigrant grandparents, Stefano and Celestina Marenghi, now long dead, back to vivid life for her readers.

Catherine’s celebration, held this week in San Miguel, was a book launch at the Biblioteca’s Santa Ana theater. Presenting to a full audience, Catherine explained the gestation of this book, read several passages from it, and showed images on a large screen to dramatize her points, such as this one:

European immigrants arriving at New York’s Ellis Island near the turn of the last century

In the six years Catherine has lived in San Miguel, after a long and successful career in public relations in Boston, she has published three books – the acclaimed memoir Glad Farm, about her early years in Milford, Massachusetts; a poetry chapbook, Breaking Bread; and now the historical novel Our Good Name.

As Catherine explained in her introduction, the names, dates and places used in her novel are all true, but she has fleshed out the connective tissue in between with tales that she imagined. She tells her tales in many voices — in first-person, present tense — which creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy to these universal stories.

Our Good Name takes readers from a small village in northern Italy to the industrial heart of Massachusetts in the early twentieth century. Leaving behind the backbreaking field labor they knew, and sailing steerage class to “the land of promise and opportunity” they’d dreamed about, Stefano and his young bride Celestina are soon faced with the hard realities of immigrant life in the United States.

Inspired by true events, Our Good Name shows their struggles, hardships, and heart-wrenching losses, including the execution of their friend and neighbor in their adopted town of Milford, Nicola Sacco.

And yet, as Catherine tells it, the stories of Stefano and Celestina and their sprawling family, are filled with love, humor, and the determination to preserve their good name while making a life they could hand down to their children and grandchildren.

Catherine’s grandparents, Stefano and Celestina Marenghi
Catherine today, at home in SMA

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A native of Massachusetts, Catherine is active in the literary community of San Miguel. Her books are available online: https://www.amazon.com/Our-Good-Name-Catherine-Marenghi/dp/1938798392.

16 thoughts on ““Our Good Name””

  1. So happy to see Catherine and her book promoted again! Thank you Bonnie. I’m a member of San Miguel PEN so was aware of the book:)

  2. Before being wrongfully executed Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are famous for telling their followers “Don’t mourn, organize”. Part of the US budding labor movement not taught much in school. Look forward to reading the book. My ancestors also arrived from Italy via Ellis Island. IMHO,a visit to Ellis Island should be a requirement for graduating high school students.

    1. In her presentation yesterday Catherine read a passage from her book that quoted Sacco’s heart-felt words in court. Very moving! I know you’ll love this book, Toni! — xx

  3. Dear Bon,
    The book sounds fantastic. It seems that SMA has far more than its share of talented writers. It must be a really beautiful place to write.

    1. Yes, Paul dear, there’s a lively literary community here. And I know you would really appreciate Catherine’s new book because of the subject matter — and it takes place near you in Massachusetts. — xx

  4. I just finished Catherine’s book. She is a compelling story teller and I loved her approach ch of weaving the real with the imagined.

  5. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a book as much as Catherine’s Our Good Name! As the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, her stories evoked wonderful memories of my Nonna.

    1. Yes, Alice dear, I suspect many, many readers of Our Good Name will have a similar reaction. Catherine’s book really brings the immigrant experience to life, and for most of us our grandparents were immigrants.

  6. Immigration has been such an important part of American history and growth. My uncle’s parents came to ‘America’ as young adults from Italy, she being promised to someone other than she loved, and he in love with her. The boat ride, only Italian language, and a strong work ethic and desire for family, freedom, and love served them well. The lived the American dream. The dream still exists, but sadly the realities are so different today.

    1. Thank you for sharing your family story, Barb. I’m sure you will really enjoy reading Catherine’s book because it brings that specific time in U.S. history to vivid life.

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