“Aquilonia is a place of great and terrible beauty . . . but one false step and the hills, the trees, even the stars, can develop fangs that tear you to shreds.” This is how Lina Medaglia describes a mountain village in Italy that is the centrepiece for her novel The Demons of Aquilonia (Inanna), a story that slowly reveals the darkness below the surface of a large extended family and a close-knit community, and shows how the scars left on a young girl can stay with her even after she and her immediate family cross the ocean to Canada.
The story switches between Toronto and Aquilonia and between then and now to show us how the main character, Licia, over half a lifetime, learns about and comes to understand and recover from the web of secrets and abuse that made her despise the picturesque village. No wonder a person would welcome a clean new country like Canada: wouldn’t it be nice if it were true that we have no demons here?
This story feels like an autobiography but flows like a well-constructed novel.