Women on a sunny afternoon in Venice, Italy.

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Three-girls-smiling in Shanghai

Taking a break from shopping to let me snap their picture on Nanjing Road, Shanghai, China.

Which statements apply to you?

My girlfriends have:

1). Helped me cope with relationship break ups.
2). Supported me during family sickness and loss.
3). Understood empty nest syndrome when my children left.
4). Encouraged my dreams.
5). Made me laugh when I wanted to cry.
6). Advised me in difficult situations.
7). Told me the truth even when it was unpleasant.
8). Trusted me with secrets.
9). Shared their joy and sorrow.
10). Never abandoned me.

Female relationships nurture, entertain, challenge and inform us. Some are transitory whereas others endure for years. A few may even span from cradle to grave. In The Inheritance, girlfriends play an integral role in family dynamics.

Did your girlfriends stay when things got tough?

Anna Marino and Mariangela Mella were born into Italy’s privileged society. They attended convent school in Tuscany and while vacationing in Calabria as sixteen year olds, Anna met her husband, Santo, a dashing yet poor fisherman. Anna’s father opposed her marriage given Santo’s social standing; nevertheless, Mariangela supported her friend even though she contravened norms and Anna’s father withdrew financial support and severed communication.

This incident reveals the women’s loyalty towards each other and their intention to live according to their values despite the consequences.

Students from Tunis, Tunisia on class trip

Students from Tunis, Tunisia in north Africa building memories that could last a lifetime.

Are girlfriends part of your famiglia?

In Italian culture, famiglia includes blood relatives and others with special designations. Godparents are noteworthy because they become parental surrogates if the child’s mother or father dies.
Godparents were integral to family dynamics during The Inheritance when death in childbirth was common, poverty the norm and many emigrated from southern Italy to other countries. Families were fragmented and their role became increasingly important.

In the novel, Mariangela gives birth to a daughter, Francesca and selects Anna as godmother. Mariangela dies a short while later and events unfold, which result in Francesca being sent to live with Anna at the Villa San Michele. The scenario adds authenticity to the story given their past relationship, Anna’s selection as Francesca’s godmother and prevailing social conditions.

Stonger than blood

Caterina Romano and Francesca Mella were from different social classes; their relationship with Anna, however, brings them to the Villa San Michele and weaves their lives together. The women, though unlike, balance each other and strengthen their individual resolve.

Neither Caterina nor Francesca has any siblings; their mothers are dead and Anna represents a mutual surrogate. The two create their own family unit by choosing to become “blood sisters” and pledging to spend their lives together and raise each other’s children as their own.

Like Anna and Mariangela, Caterina and Francesca vow to live according to their values irrespective of social norms. They come to love men inappropriate for their station in life and when challenges arise to thwart their choice, they unite to help each other out.

Caterina and Francesca represent an interesting family dynamic. They are sisters of choice rather than inherited blood; a situation that causes one to wonder if this type of relationship is not the more powerful of the two.

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Would you have chosen your sister as a girlfriend? I’d welcome your comments.

I hope you enjoy my photographs of women from my travels.

two women and little girl posing for photo in Shanghai

The women holding this little girl on Nanjing Road, Shanghai, China made me think of Caterina and Francesca’s pledge to consider each other’s children as their own.

Women talking while walking though buy street

“The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but hold hands.” These women in Venice, Italy illustrate this anonymous quote.

Students visiting tomb in India

School girls enjoying a visit to Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, India.