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The setting is New York's Little Italy in the 1950s -- a community closely knit by gossip and tradition. This is the story of an extraordinary family, the Santangelos. There is Joseph, the butcher, who cheats in his shop and at pinochle, only to find the deck is stacked against him; his mother, Mrs. Santangelo, who sees the evil eye everywhere and who calls on her saints; and Catherine, his wife, whose determination to raise a modern daughter leads her to confront ancient questions. Finally, there is Theresa, Joseph and Catherine's daughter, whose astonishing discovery of purpose moves the book toward its unpredictable conclusion.