The Oystercatcher of Southwark

by Erica Colahan-Ruggieri


Philadelphia, 1897—When Italian Catholic immigrant Mary Paragano runs away to marry a Jewish boy named Jakob, she does not find her happily ever after. Instead, she is disowned by her father, abandoned by her husband, and pursued by a jealous gangster. She ends her life in an asylum, accused of trying to murder her own children.

Philadelphia, present-day—While Bella, Mary’s great-great-granddaughter, tries to cope with the pain of her recent divorce, she is approached by Sophie, a stranger claiming to be a relative of Jakob, the man who abandoned Mary to her horrible fate 125 years before. As the women piece together what happened on that tragic night, they soon realize things are not always what they seem. Was Jakob a scoundrel and Mary insane? And how have deceptions more than a century old affected their lives even in the present day?

Based on the actual events of the life of the author’s great-great-grandmother, The Oystercatcher of Southwark is a journey through the immigrant neighborhoods of South Philadelphia that focuses on the intense love of a mother for her children and the redemptive hope that God offers to all creation.