Nella has lived in her close-knit Italian neighborhood since she was born twelve years ago.  Everyone there knows everything about everybody. Or so Nella thinks.

In primary school, before her beloved St. Amphibalus parish school closed, life seemed much simpler. Her best friend and secret sister, Angela, practically lived with Nella’s family in spite of all of Nella’s annoying but loveable little brothers.  Angela’s big brother Anthony looked out for the girls, and Nella idolized him. He even managed to endear himself to Nella’s cantankerous great-grandmother.

Then Clem comes to town. Nella is ready to branch out and make new friends, but Angela is not so assertive and Clem is a bit possessive. As the “secret sisters” drift apart, something tugs at Nella’s conscience. Meanwhile, Nella starts to hear rumors about her father’s past. Could everything she ever believed about him be false?

Gradually Nella realizes that people, and life, are more complicated than she had thought. Anthony takes a job as a security guard to help support his family and accidentally kills a man. Accusations of racism fly, but Nella knows better. Now she must decide if she has the courage to forgive, be forgiven and do what is right.

Tricia Springstubb’s novel about family ties, friendship and neighborhood rivalries is hard to put down. Nella ‘s family is heart-warming: a mother who loves unconditionally; a father who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family; lots of little boys to keep Nella on her toes; and a classic matriarchal great-grandmother whose strength inspires.

While the publisher recommends the book for 9-12 year olds, the content is really more appropriate for readers 13+. The questions of accidental death, including that of a child, racism and puppy love are handled well, but call for an older audience.

A former teacher, Jennifer Minicus is currently a full-time wife and mother.

Jennifer Minicus

Jennifer Minicus lives in New Jersey with her husband and son. A former French, Latin and mathematics teacher, Jennifer currently enjoys the responsibilities of a "domestic engineer", particularly making...