The novel is the story of my Italian inner-city childhood neighborhood. Home to strong personalities and families, the neighborhood itself served in a lot of ways as an island when I was very young. We couldn't cross the street, let alone go around the corner. As we grew older, each street (or neighborhood) we travelled to was an island, and in some cases many groups of streets formed a larger island (depending on how far one was willing to venture.)
I knew a lot of people who were born, lived their life, and then died...all in South Philadelphia. They never left their asphalt and concrete street, let alone climb on a plane to see the world. New Jersey was "the sticks" and about as exotic as it got for some. Most of these people were just hardworking, blue collar people...a part of a line of immigrants who settled into these neighborhoods at the turn of the century and never left. Our streets were in some ways like the old farmsteads where the extended family was the rule, and not the exception. It was also like the farmstead in that one could feel trapped (this life isn't for me), or one would hear of someone who "escaped" and maybe one who left and never came it back, and some who settled in and stayed and simply did their best and made it [a] Home.
It was a comfortably hard place to be.