The Lady of the Wheel

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The Lady of the Wheel
(La Ruotaia)
First edition cover
Author Angelo F. Coniglio
Original title The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia)
Country Sicily
Language English and Sicilian
Genre Fiction
Publisher Legas
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
ISBN 1881901-86-6

The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia) is a 2012 historical fiction novel[1] by Sicilian American author Angelo F. Coniglio. The book follows the life of a girl who was abandoned as an infant, with the major themes of the book including poverty, exploitation and family values.[2][3][4] Coniglio's work has been compared to the verismo (realism) of Sicilian author Giovanni Verga.[5][6]

Plot summary[edit]

A mother abandons an infant girl, placing her inside a 'foundling wheel' to be cared for in a foundling home, and the woman's husband gives up a young son as a carusu, a virtual slave in a sulfur mine; both actions intended to help the remaining family to survive in poverty-stricken Racalmuto, in late-1800s Sicily. It was common for families to give up their boys at the age of five as carusi, selling them to the mining company for life for a small price, and the parents treat it matter-of-factly as a regrettable but unavoidable decision. The plot follows the girl's life as a foundling, and her brother's labors in the mine, working ten hour days in hellish conditions, and their interactions with family and co-workers. As plot devices, the author includes examples of Napoleon-inspired recording of civil documents, and describes the Sicilian conventions for selecting the given names of a family's children.


  • Rosa Esposto - the protagonist, an abandoned child
  • Maria Rizzo - Rosa's mother
  • Antonino 'Nino' Alessi- Rosa's father, a pick-man in a sulfur mine
  • Anna di Marco - 'la Ruotaia', the receiver of abandoned infants left in the town's 'foundling wheel'
  • Salvatore 'Totò' Alessi - Rosa's eldest brother, a "carusu" or mine-boy in a sulfur mine
  • Gaetano 'Tanuzzu' Alessi - another brother of Rosa's
  • Pietro 'Petruzzu' Castiglione - the son of the mayor of Racalmuto


  1. ^ The Lady of the Wheel at
  2. ^ "Sicilian life, history informs 'Lady of the Wheel'". The Daily News. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Fortunato, Marion (July 25, 2013). "The Lady of the Wheel". The Italian Tribune. 
  4. ^ Grece, Magna. "A Review of "The Lady of the Wheel"". The Lady of the Wheel. 
  5. ^ Scambray, Kenneth (October 17, 2013). "ARTS: The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia) New York: Legas, 2012, by Angelo F. Coniglio". L'Italo-Americano. 
  6. ^ Di Renzo, Anthony (Summer 2014). "Reviews: The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia) New York: Legas, 2012, by Angelo F. Coniglio". Italian Americana Cultural and Historical Review. 

External links[edit]