By Ekta R. Garg
June 10, 2020
Release date: April 7, 2020
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A woman receives a cryptic letter about her supposed connection to nobility. She travels from her small American town to the frigid Alps to discover the details, and uncover the secrets, about her lineage. Digging deeper into her family’s past brings to light just as many questions as it does answers, however. Author Danielle Trussoni sets the perfect mood and tone for lovers of gothic literature in her newest book The Ancestor.
Alberta “Bert” Monte wants to be a mother, desperately, but every attempt at having children has failed. It’s the main reason why she’s asked her gem of a husband, Luca, to move out of their modest home in Milton, New York. Luca is the love of her life, and they’ve known each other since childhood, but Bert is having a hard time accepting the miscarriages and Luca’s optimism about the future isn’t helping.
Even though she feels like the separation is the right thing to do, Bert feels more alone than ever before. Her parents are long gone, and she’s an only child. It doesn’t help that some of Bert’s favorite people are in Luca’s family, which means that that outlet is now closed to her too. At least in her mind it is. Luca would like nothing more than to get back together.
The arrival of a mysterious package of documents seems to accomplish just that, for the short term at least. Bert receives a letter from Turin, Italy, addressed to “Alberta Isabelle Eleanor Vittoria Montebianco.” She has no idea who that is and asks Luca to help her sort it out.
The answer shocks both of them. The House of Montebianco held a position of high power in Italy from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century. Bert is the last living blood descendant of the family, and the estate lawyers have sent her the papers to ask her to come to Italy and sort out what to do with the family home—a real castle—and effects.
At first, Bert is inclined to believe this is some mistake, but the papers and the appearance of one of the family lawyers proves otherwise. He entreats her to travel to Italy, and after a great deal of reluctance—and bolstered by Luca’s eagerness to go with her—Bert agrees. They’re whisked by private jet to the Italian Alps, and Bert begins to think this might be a new start to her life.
When she arrives at the family castle, though, it becomes clear that the Montebianco family is hiding several secrets. Bert spends time there and becomes involved with the family’s lineage and the effects of that lineage on the nearby village of Nevenero. As she sorts through the past, she begins to realize that her life is more intertwined with the Montebianco name and heritage than she could have ever guessed.
Author Danielle Trussoni sets the stage for the novel early on with beautiful descriptions that enhance the slightly creepy and overall gloomy outlook for Bert. As she goes from New York to Italy and takes one hesitant step at a time toward accepting her ancestry, readers are led toward a fantastical premise they may not see coming but totally makes sense within the context of the world Trussoni has built. As far as gothic novels go, Trussoni hits all the high marks and makes sure to incorporate every single classic element of the genre while bringing in modern factors.
Bert’s obsession with being unable to carry a child to full term paints her as a melancholic figure, but even in that melancholy she finds strength. Trussoni doesn’t let Bert off the hook when it comes to wrestling with the revelations of her family’s origins. Bert fights back several times, but each time the circumstances fight back harder and draw readers deeper into the story world.
If the book can be faulted anywhere, it’s in the temporary disappearance of Luca. When he slips out of the story, readers might get distracted wondering where he went and why Bert isn’t wondering about it with more insistence. Trussoni redirects readers’ attention to Bert and her experiences, but it takes a little while to surrender to the story world again. Luca’s reappearance will cheer readers on but might remind them, too, of the questions they had about him.
Regardless, the novel is a study in dark tales that still manage to offer a hint of light and optimism to the reader. Trussoni brings in folklore and gives it an intelligent foundation. This one is best read on a stormy summer day under a blanket. I recommend readers Bookmark The Ancestor.