A poignant novel reminiscent in many ways to 'On the Waterfront', 'When the World Was Young' is an intimate portrait of the Peccatoris, a 1950's first generation Italian-American family in Chicago, and their struggle to find their balance a world far from "home" whose lives are changed forevermore when their youngest member dies.
'When the World Was Young' takes readers back to the neighborhoods of 1957 Chicago, where Angela Rosa and Agostino Peccatori, Italian–American immigrants still clinging to their old ways, must deal with the untimely death of Benito, the infant son. Angela Rosa has devoted her entire adult life to caring for her children, while Agostino runs the corner social club and tavern, drifting notoriously to other women. Oldest son Santo, having just graduated from high school, agonizes over the ways in which he is becoming more and more like his father, while 16–year–old daughter Victoria must constantly invent schemes to leave the house so she can meet up with boyfriends for a cigarette. Benito's death sends the entire family on paths that intersect and collide until the dramatic ending.