Out of Calabria is the story of a privileged Calabrian family that emerged from poverty by a circumstance of war and the unswerving fortitude of one man; and of how the young women of his family refused to bend to the mores and traditions of the times, pitting them against their social order and their own father. Caterina and Concetta Zinzi each rebelled against their famed and highly esteemed father when he attempted to force the traditions of the times upon them, arranging their marriages to men of his choosing, based on dowry and family background. Raised as high spirited and independent women, both daughters sought out the men of their own preference and forced their will upon their controlling father. The doggedness of their pursuits resulted in their decline in social status and their eventual emigration to the United States.
Caterina's attraction to a handsome field hand leads her into heated disagreement with her father, who is bent on marrying her to a man of wealth and promise. Moreover, he harbors a secret about the man she loves that would never allow him to be accepted into the Zinzi family. Concetta's man, also of very modest means, is required by his greedy family to marry an elderly rich woman, forcing him into an unhappy and faithless marriage; and, eventually, to a bigamous relationship with Concetta. To escape the influence and outmoded customs of Calabrian society, both women find that they must leave Italy. There, they experience the travails and attainments of Italian immigrants in turn-of-the-century America.
It is a story of contradiction, of rebellion by women in a society that presumed their obedience and adherence to tradition. And, it is a story of the enormous love that is possible between a man and woman, when they forsake everything to be together, flouting tradition in the face of disgrace and family disharmony. It is a story from out of the past that is relevant even today. Taken from real life occurrences in the author's ancestral maternal family, it is reminiscent at times of aspects of Melania Mazzucco's Vita and the coarse brutality of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.