Book Review: Dear America: West to a Land of Plenty, The Diary of Teresa Angelino Viscardi (New York to Idaho Territory 1883) by Jim Murphy

west-to-a-land-of-plentyWhen I read the first page of this DA diary, I knew this one was going to be quite special. For one, it was written in (what I felt to be) a very realistic voice and style for a fourteen year old girl– complete with spelling errors and complaints about family, and how much she hates her little know-it-all sister. This book only got better, and had a lot of heart.

Teresa is the American-born child of an Italian immigrant family. They are fairly happy in their crowded New York City apartment, when her father and uncle, as well as many more on their street, are persuaded by the enthusiastic Mr. William Keil to relocate to Idaho Territory for the opportunity to own an expanse of land and make a better life for their families. Thus begins the Viscardi family’s venture out West, first via railroad and then on foot in a wagon train, pioneer-style. This is the only DA diary I have read (so far) that is in fact a shared diary, meaning there are entries from both Teresa and her precocious (and hilarious) little sister, Netta. On the journey, they are also accompanied by their– very memorable– feisty Sicilian grandmother. Teresa herself had more personality than most of the narrators in this series combined, which made this book a unique joy to read, on top of Netta’s entries being so entertaining as well. It also has some of the funniest quotations from characters I’ve encountered in this series– indeed, this is the first DA book at which I actually laughed out loud while reading. This book also has its share of tragedy as well, however; be prepared for a devastating major death.

The epilogue, I felt, was extremely realistic, which is what I like to read, and I was very surprised to discover, after finishing, that the author was male, for he spoke from a young female perspective quite well. Overall, a wonderful book in the series, and one of which I will always remain very fond.