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Blood Washes Blood: A True Story of Love, Murder, and Redemption Under the Sicilian Sun

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Against the sweeping backdrop of western Sicily, in a riveting seven-year quest, Frank Viviano pieces together his own harrowing ancestral history of betrayal and redemption. His take is haunted, from its violent opening to its stunning climax, by an ancient Sicilian proverb, Lu sangu lava lu sangu, "Blood washes blood": the torrent of unforgiving vengeance that flows from Against the sweeping backdrop of western Sicily, in a riveting seven-year quest, Frank Viviano pieces together his own harrowing ancestral history of betrayal and redemption. His take is haunted, from its violent opening to its stunning climax, by an ancient Sicilian proverb, Lu sangu lava lu sangu, "Blood washes blood": the torrent of unforgiving vengeance that flows from an unforgivable offense. Viviano's great-great grandfather was a legendary bandit who traveled the countryside of Sicily by night in the robes of a friar and was known as "the Monk." His brutal murder has remained shrouded in mystery for four generations. Until now. Populated by an extraordinary cast of nineteenth-century Robin Hood brigands and twentieth-century underworld bosses, here is a true-life Godfather, in which past and present finally merge into a single story with a shattering climax that ultimately changes the way the author views his immigrant family's complex legacy -- and himself.


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Against the sweeping backdrop of western Sicily, in a riveting seven-year quest, Frank Viviano pieces together his own harrowing ancestral history of betrayal and redemption. His take is haunted, from its violent opening to its stunning climax, by an ancient Sicilian proverb, Lu sangu lava lu sangu, "Blood washes blood": the torrent of unforgiving vengeance that flows from Against the sweeping backdrop of western Sicily, in a riveting seven-year quest, Frank Viviano pieces together his own harrowing ancestral history of betrayal and redemption. His take is haunted, from its violent opening to its stunning climax, by an ancient Sicilian proverb, Lu sangu lava lu sangu, "Blood washes blood": the torrent of unforgiving vengeance that flows from an unforgivable offense. Viviano's great-great grandfather was a legendary bandit who traveled the countryside of Sicily by night in the robes of a friar and was known as "the Monk." His brutal murder has remained shrouded in mystery for four generations. Until now. Populated by an extraordinary cast of nineteenth-century Robin Hood brigands and twentieth-century underworld bosses, here is a true-life Godfather, in which past and present finally merge into a single story with a shattering climax that ultimately changes the way the author views his immigrant family's complex legacy -- and himself.

30 review for Blood Washes Blood: A True Story of Love, Murder, and Redemption Under the Sicilian Sun

  1. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    It’s ironic that a self-confessed loner like Frank Viviano should have become so engrossed in his family history. We should be thankful that this wanderer came to ground in Sicily to research his great-great-grandfather’s death, because his account, Blood Washes Blood, presents a beautiful, informative, engaging and emotional journey. Francesco Paolo Viviano, or Franky, was brought up in Detroit. He became a journalist, posted to many of the world’s most painful hotspots. There is much, but succi It’s ironic that a self-confessed loner like Frank Viviano should have become so engrossed in his family history. We should be thankful that this wanderer came to ground in Sicily to research his great-great-grandfather’s death, because his account, Blood Washes Blood, presents a beautiful, informative, engaging and emotional journey. Francesco Paolo Viviano, or Franky, was brought up in Detroit. He became a journalist, posted to many of the world’s most painful hotspots. There is much, but succinct reflection on these conflicts throughout Blood Washes Blood, an aspect that adds intellectual and emotional perspective to an otherwise private story. Blood Washes Blood came about as a result of a grandfather’s whispered comments when close to death. Grandfather Francesco Paolo Viviano described his own grandfather, yet another Francesco Paolo Viviano, otherwise known as the monk, saying that he had been murdered by a member of the Valenti family. And that was all he said. Grandson Franky never forgot this confession, however. So some years later he set off to Sicily to immerse himself in a search to uncover a family history. What he discovered was no less than a family that lived the history of the Sicilian people. The phrase may sound strange, but a significant part of the argument of Blood Washes Blood – and it does have an argument – is the assertion that Sicilians are a nation apart, both separate from and often shunned by their Italian neighbours. It is the culture of that society – especially its need to resist, to assert its identity against the constant pressure of foreign domination – that gave rise to bandits, freedom fighters and, eventually, a mafia. Frank Viviani details his arduous research to uncover the truth of his great-great-grandfather’s death and, in doing so, displays a journalist’s talent for accuracy, allusion, observation and not a little analysis. The author does eventually identify a plausible and documented series of events and, as a result of uncovering some quite breathtaking detail, realises that he, the loner, the wanderer, is nothing less than a lynchpin holding his family together, a peace-maker and peace treaty all in one body. Blood Washes Blood is a fascinating juxtaposition of family history, political history, journalism and biography. No doubt every family has its own story, and they are all worth telling.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    An excellent study of Viviano's dusty & dark Sicilian blood, told in chapters alternating the past (1800s) with episodes from the present (1990s).How far has this fascinating island, with its unique blends of genes, come since the earliest days of the phenomenon known as 'mafia'? The answer is 'not far'...if the 'men of honour' are still strangling the forces for progress & modernity while enforcing their ancient & archaic 'sistema' with brutality & violence. Viviano gradually confronts his own p An excellent study of Viviano's dusty & dark Sicilian blood, told in chapters alternating the past (1800s) with episodes from the present (1990s).How far has this fascinating island, with its unique blends of genes, come since the earliest days of the phenomenon known as 'mafia'? The answer is 'not far'...if the 'men of honour' are still strangling the forces for progress & modernity while enforcing their ancient & archaic 'sistema' with brutality & violence. Viviano gradually confronts his own past family complications to discover the truth about his namesake...& it only confirms that Sicilians live as they die...with blood washing blood...the eternal vendetta which we all know from books & films...& any number of television series. A wonderful read, painstakingly researched & vividly written; if you want to understand the mafia...this is a great introduction.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jan Daulton

    This is a cool story. I head this man speaking on TV and got interested in his story. It is a true story and one of intrigue and murder. Viviano goes back to Italy in search of his family tree. He finds an unsolved murder and vows to solve it. I love reading about Italy and this one was very fun. I also learned about a time period I had no idea about!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Grace McArdle

    My family came for Sicily at the turn of the 20th century from a small city called Terrasini. Mr Viviano's book helped me fill in the blanks. His book explained why my family left Italy. It also explained showed who I am. My family came for Sicily at the turn of the 20th century from a small city called Terrasini. Mr Viviano's book helped me fill in the blanks. His book explained why my family left Italy. It also explained showed who I am.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura Ventimiglia

    The author has an engaging 'voice' and nicely combines his family's history with the history of Sicily. Several times I caught my breath at his findings of ancestors interconnections with each other and those of Sicily's past. A great read. The author has an engaging 'voice' and nicely combines his family's history with the history of Sicily. Several times I caught my breath at his findings of ancestors interconnections with each other and those of Sicily's past. A great read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Wilson

    ‘Blood Washes Blood’ is an excellent title describing, Frank Viviano’s true story about Sicily, his ancestry, and a background to the mafia. The author is an investigative journalist who has bravely covered many world hot-spots risking life and limb. His book reflects the same strength of character and investigative skills as he uncovers the secrets of Sicily and his ancestry. The story takes us on a journey of discovery; a revelation of past secrets buried in archives of various descriptions. I ‘Blood Washes Blood’ is an excellent title describing, Frank Viviano’s true story about Sicily, his ancestry, and a background to the mafia. The author is an investigative journalist who has bravely covered many world hot-spots risking life and limb. His book reflects the same strength of character and investigative skills as he uncovers the secrets of Sicily and his ancestry. The story takes us on a journey of discovery; a revelation of past secrets buried in archives of various descriptions. It extends well back into the nineteenth century into the period of Bourbon occupation and Garibaldi’s reunification —a period preceding the formation of the Mafia. Viviano introduces us to the Sicilian culture; the people who have been trampled over by one oppressor after another and have learned to fight back. This might offer some explanation to the irony of a culture embracing Catholicism yet disregarding the most important commandment: “to love ones neighbour”. ‘The God Father’, is one of my favourite movies, and I love history, so when I picked up the hard covered version of ‘Blood Washes Blood’ in a book store in New Zealand I knew I would love it, and I was not disappointed. Viviano’s use of the English language and his depth of research are impressive. As an honest reviewer with many reviews on Amazon I must however be candid. While I enjoyed the written word and content I did not find this book an easy read especially trying to get my head around who was who and where they fitted into the puzzle. Secondly, at times I felt that the writer was rambling—like referring to his girlfriend, though in other cases it was necessary to digress in order to depict Sicilian culture. Over-all I enjoyed this book, learned a lot about Sicily, and would certainly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Cascio

    The story is personally meaningful to me, because I'm tracing my genealogy to a village near where Viviano's family is from, and his story is set. The glimmers of Sicilian culture, past and present, indigenous and transplanted to America, are a big part of what I was looking for here. The author is a war correspondent, so he's well suited to writing about Sicily's long history of colonization, leading to the Risorgimento and the formation of the Mafia. The story he tells about his own family dov The story is personally meaningful to me, because I'm tracing my genealogy to a village near where Viviano's family is from, and his story is set. The glimmers of Sicilian culture, past and present, indigenous and transplanted to America, are a big part of what I was looking for here. The author is a war correspondent, so he's well suited to writing about Sicily's long history of colonization, leading to the Risorgimento and the formation of the Mafia. The story he tells about his own family dovetails into this history. And yet there are places I want more detail, and paragraphs that I would have cut altogether. The pieces I would have cut are recognizable as darlings. They're lyrical but don't tell me enough, are too vague. It's one thing to be Sicilian and speak in code. A story has to be tighter. The climax could have been better developed. As the author writes, he didn't find the final piece of the puzzle until he'd already been working on the book for some time, and so some of what he fills in to make that piece fit, is sketched in quickly, and doesn't find a place in my heart like the rest of his story succeeds at doing. As in my own research, there are clearly lines of inquiry that have captured Viviano more completely and some that have only caught him by surprise. Much of the drama is around some pretty dusty stuff, like gaining access to old Church records. But for as much as his book is about getting from one historical site to another, and is successful at showing you how the places are so little changed since 1860, I felt like it could have done with more research. His conclusion is weakened considerably by this. I'd recommend this to readers interested in the subject matter, but not as, say, a "beach read."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

    Perhaps it's because I'm a bit fascinated by my own Sicilian heritage that I found this book absolutely fantastic and an integral part of my Sicilian-American family history research project. I initially stumbled across it as I was searching for historical background on the romanticized bandits of the Sicilian mountains in the 19th century (specifically I was interested in Pasquale Bruno from Bauso, Villafranca Tirrena). I think the author's journalistic approach combined with his search through h Perhaps it's because I'm a bit fascinated by my own Sicilian heritage that I found this book absolutely fantastic and an integral part of my Sicilian-American family history research project. I initially stumbled across it as I was searching for historical background on the romanticized bandits of the Sicilian mountains in the 19th century (specifically I was interested in Pasquale Bruno from Bauso, Villafranca Tirrena). I think the author's journalistic approach combined with his search through his own family's identity kept it interesting - flipping back and forth between semi-fictional descriptions of how he imagined his ancestor's lives, his research struggles in tracing the documents, and anecdotes about living in Sicily and growing up in an immigrant family. A lot of it seemed incredibly familiar in a way. I can see how someone with little connection to Sicilian-American immigration might not be able to get into it, but I found it fantastic and recommended it to the rest of my family.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Walt

    This book follows the author as he makes his way around Italy seeking information about his ancestors. Of course, his Sicilian relations had some connection to the Mafia....Consequently, he spends some time describing the Mafia in its infancy. He portrays it in a romantic light of fighting for Italian unity and self-government before turning to crime and thuggery. He is a gifted writer and carries the reader along easily in between passages of ancient Mafiosi and modern Italy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    The ideas that we found interesting were: The idea that the fued between Viviano family and Valentis family would be reconciled by the marriage of Frank P Viviano (Franky) and Prudy De Guiseppe. The "morose" attitude of the author and other sicillians. Generally: Interesting but laborious. Author wrote like a journalist not a story teller. Only 3 of 10 bookclub membes finished the book and the others could not get into it. The ideas that we found interesting were: The idea that the fued between Viviano family and Valentis family would be reconciled by the marriage of Frank P Viviano (Franky) and Prudy De Guiseppe. The "morose" attitude of the author and other sicillians. Generally: Interesting but laborious. Author wrote like a journalist not a story teller. Only 3 of 10 bookclub membes finished the book and the others could not get into it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Wartko

    I have read this book several times and given copies to friends, who for the most part really enjoyed it too. This journey of discovery about the author's search for his roots is captivating, and very well written. A surprise near the end really rocked me, and still does every time I read it. Strong emphasis on the evolvement of the Sicilian culture, and supportive at the same time as exposing faults. Let me know if you like it too! I have read this book several times and given copies to friends, who for the most part really enjoyed it too. This journey of discovery about the author's search for his roots is captivating, and very well written. A surprise near the end really rocked me, and still does every time I read it. Strong emphasis on the evolvement of the Sicilian culture, and supportive at the same time as exposing faults. Let me know if you like it too!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Mandella

    This book is a fascinating look at Sicily, especially for anyone who can trace their heritage there. Trying to picture my ancestors alongside the autor's was fun to do. However, the pacing is very slow. Maybe because it's about the melancholy of life in the Italian countryside, but it took everyone in my family longer than usual to read. Worth it, though. This book is a fascinating look at Sicily, especially for anyone who can trace their heritage there. Trying to picture my ancestors alongside the autor's was fun to do. However, the pacing is very slow. Maybe because it's about the melancholy of life in the Italian countryside, but it took everyone in my family longer than usual to read. Worth it, though.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    A moving and stimulating story of a man's quest for his antecedents and the mystery of an unsolved crime. Providing and unforgettable account of Sicily and its history; a history of continual conquest, anarchy and a search for order and stability which resulted in the rise of the Mafia. Absolutely fascinating. A moving and stimulating story of a man's quest for his antecedents and the mystery of an unsolved crime. Providing and unforgettable account of Sicily and its history; a history of continual conquest, anarchy and a search for order and stability which resulted in the rise of the Mafia. Absolutely fascinating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gerlinde

    Excellent writing. A fascinating true story thoroughly researched and told with suspense and emotional honesty. What is revealed at the end is astonishing and breath-taking. I exclaimed my surprise out loud. Especially engaging as the author is a personal friend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mueller

    Very engaging Family History; includes some detailed Historical Research. Two ways for (Sicilian Traditionalists) wo have "Blood Wash Blood": one being to eliminate all male family members of an offending clan, the other, intermarrying into that clan. Very engaging Family History; includes some detailed Historical Research. Two ways for (Sicilian Traditionalists) wo have "Blood Wash Blood": one being to eliminate all male family members of an offending clan, the other, intermarrying into that clan.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This book could have done with some serious editing but otherwise it was an interesting tale.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Interesting look at the early days in Sicily and the link from Terrasini, Sicily to Detroit.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Interesting mix of family history and Sicilian history. I recommended it for anyone with Sicilian roots.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    Interesting story that needed a storyteller, not a journalist.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Asha Stark

    This was a great book. It takes its time, and can feel a little bit like the author's meandering through memory, but it all comes together beautifully to paint a picture of 19th century Sicily. This was a great book. It takes its time, and can feel a little bit like the author's meandering through memory, but it all comes together beautifully to paint a picture of 19th century Sicily.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve Naventi

    Great mix of the past and present

  22. 5 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

    2 Stars = Blah. It didn't do anything for me. 2 Stars = Blah. It didn't do anything for me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    J.C.

    liked it but didn't love it. liked it but didn't love it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gena Calta

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mickey

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Kinoshita

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary Anne

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

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