by Ronald L. Ruiz
Publication Date: March 31, 1998
In a penetrating look at our national myth of rags-to-riches success, Ronald Ruiz tells the gripping story of the rise, unification, and decline of two very American families named Rocco and Martinez.
Through his self-made scavenger business and a series of shrewd land investments, Italian immigrant Giuseppe Rocco raises himself from nothing to improbable wealth and political influence in northern California. Rocco’s money and power allow him to possess a bride of high birth and breeding. Although to her he will never be more than a garbage collector, it is through their loveless marriage that Giuseppe Rocco becomes the patriarch of a dynasty of three sons.
When her drug-addicted mother disappears, thirteen-year-old Sally Martinez abruptly becomes the matriarch of her family of six younger brothers and sisters. Over the next several years, Sally manages to keep her family fed, clothed and unbroken through a steely determination equal to that of Giuseppe Rocco. When 19-year-old Sally elopes with 18-year-old Joey Rocco, Giuseppe’s oldest son, Rocco’s world undergoes a subtle change. But only as he gradually recognizes his daughter-in-law’s considerable strengths does he begin to see her as a means to perpetuate his empire. The result is a subtle recasting of America’s Horatio Alger myth by “a talented, painstaking and intelligent writer” The Houston Post.