In old Bari, everyone knows Maria De Santis as “Malacarne,” the bad seed. Nicknamed for her dark features, volcanic temperament, and resistance to rules, the headstrong girl can only imagine the possibilities that lie outside her poverty-stricken neighborhood.
Growing up with her mother, two brothers, and a tyrannical father, Maria must abide. She does―amid the squalid life to which she was born, the cruelties of her small-minded neighbors, and violence in a constant threat of eruption. As she reconciles her need for escape with the allegiance she feels toward her family, Maria has her salvations: her secret friend, Michele, son of a rival family and every bit the outsider she is, and her passion for books, which may someday take her far, far away.
In this exquisitely rendered and sensory-rich novel, Rosa Ventrella explores the limits of loyalty, the redeeming power of friendship and love, and the fire in the soul of one woman who was born to break free.