The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby
A Novel

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A surprising mystery--and love story--set in rural Sicily

Like many memorable works of fiction, The Almond Picker hinges on a question, in this case: who is Maria Rosalia Inzerillo, known as Mennulara, the almond picker? Born into a desperately poor Sicilian farming family, Mennulara went into service when she was only a girl, as a maid for a well-to-do local family; by dint of hard work and intelligence, she became the indispensable administrator of the family's affairs and was said to be rich. Still, she was a mere servant, and now (as the story begins) she is dead.

Who was she, really? Simonetta Agnello Hornby's wonderfully entertaining novel about this mysterious woman -- a bestseller in Italy when it was published in 2002 -- has all the suspense of a witty thriller, the emotions of a powerful love story, and the evocative atmosphere of a historical novel. Set in Sicily in the 1960s, a violent, complicated society in the midst of tumultuous change, where young and old, rich and poor, men and women are set against each other, The Almond Picker is the story of a woman who negotiated for her freedom as no one else dared.

Unusual instructions in Mennulara's will perplex the family she worked for and send the children on a kind of treasure hunt, for each of them wants to secure her fabled riches. She is no longer physically present, but her mysterious importance to them and to the village comes into focus in a series of dramatic encounters and spiky exchanges among the neighbors. Everyone has a very different idea about Mennulara's amazing life. Was she a humble servant who ruled her master, or perhaps a pawn for the Mafia? Was she a seducer and opportunist, a sly blackmailer waiting for a payoff, or the opposite? During the thirty days following her death, the surprising truth is revealed.

About Simonetta Agnello Hornby

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Simonetta Agnello Hornby was born in Palermo. She finished her law studies in England, where she now lives and where she is president of the Tribunal of Special Educational Needs. This is her first book.
Published January 1, 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 336 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Who was Mennulara, the spinster-maid of the Alfallipe family, who ran its finances and gave shelter to its widow after Judge Alfallipe died?

Mar 01 2005 | Read Full Review of The Almond Picker: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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After Mennulara dies, the three grown Alfallipe children—all wealthy and selfish, of course—balk at executing her eccentric will precisely, their bad behavior relayed via gossip and flashbacks by a hodgepodge of stock characters (the empathetic spinster;

Feb 21 2005 | Read Full Review of The Almond Picker: A Novel

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