Local author Anthony Barcellos will read from his first novel, “Land of Milk and Money,” at the Avid Reader in Davis on Saturday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m., and at the Avid Reader in Sacramento on Sunday, July 15, at 2 p.m.
Barcellos’ book has been praised by Gerald Haslam, John Lescroart and others. “Land of Milk and Money” (2012, Tagus Press) follows the Francisco family, Portuguese immigrants who build a prosperous dairy farm in California’s Central Valley, and the legal battle over the inheritance of cattle and land.
About the book, Barcellos said, “There are many oft-told tales in my family history, dragged out on special occasions for the edification of new additions to the family or the entertainment of guests. My sister would sometimes tell me that they needed to be written down – but as fiction, ‘because no one would believe these things really happened.’”
Tagus Press published “Land of Milk and Money” under the “Portuguese in the Americas” series, which is a good fit, since Portuguese-Americans are under-represented in American literature. Barcellos said that “a natural component of the novel is the loss of an immigrant family’s original language and culture,” something too often seen in other cultures in America.
“Land of Milk and Money” is at once interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. The number of characters sometimes reminds us of the quantity found in Russian novels, but we never get lost. We come to know each character and his or her positive and negative aspects through the stories of attending school, dating, marriage and work. Readers will find the cast of characters and glossary of Portuguese words and phrases at the book’s end useful. The story revolves around the trial over the farm’s legacy, which drives wedges further into the family. At times, it may be difficult to tell who is on which side. Even the lawyers have to keep scorecards. The court setting holds the book together, as Barcellos explores the history of the Francisco family, intergenerational struggles, changing times and the death of the matriarch. Barcellos moves to and fro through time, through the novel’s 10 parts, dating and titling each chapter. The nonlinear format suits this novel, and the story is sure to please anyone with an interest in history, Portuguese-Americans, dairy farms, intergenerational struggles within immigrant families or California history.