Yes, I went looking for ratpaths and the history of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. There really was no choice after reading what Ms. Rust had to say about her inspiration for the story.
Poverty is something I think about a lot. Not because I am poor, but because I have escaped it. My dad could have been Nivvo. When his father was arrested for underground work during WWII, my grandmother slowly but surely went mad with paranoia. My dad would have been six at the time his father was arrested and his little sister four. They went from getting by to being hungry a lot. But things never became as dire as they did for Nivvo and his mom (and soon after his sister).
I suppose this is one reason why I like Nivvo so much. There is no doubt in my mind that given the right/wrong people in his life, my dad could have become a Nivvo. Whether his sister would have been a Reka I do not know. Both characters are survivors and very likeable. Both love each other and do their best to take care of each other – and others in need. Again this is very much like my father and his sister.
Reka has grown up without her mother and was taken care of by a poor fire priest. At the beginning of the story, Bappo Andori had died not many months previously. At this point Reka is thirteen years old. In many places today being thirteen and poor grows you up awfully fast. With the help of Nivvo’s contractor, she gains control of the estate and keeps up the good work for the homeless.
Nivvo is a thief and a good one. The underworld’s boss, Vicco Cambrosi, wants Nivvo as part of his organization, but that would mean loss of freedom to choose assignments. Nivvo does not want this, but fears a point may be reached when he no longer has a choice.
Ratpaths is for the most part about Nivvo stealing a person, and the mess that makes of life in Istonnia and Nivvo’s life. Ratpaths also gives us a look at Nivvo’s past and gently prods us toward realizing a vital thing about him. Ratpaths was a fun and flowing story.
Wikipedia: Sicilian Mafia