Chiara Ravello is a headstrong single young woman living in Rome in 1943 with her older, but damaged, sister, Cecilia. Her fiancee was killed not long ago, followed by the death of her beloved father, but still she trudges on, caring for what remains of her family. Additionally, she is involved in the underground rebellion against the Nazis and Fascists and finds herself headed over to her friend's cafe following a veiled call for her help. As she arrives at the cafe in the Jewish ghetto, she sees the Nazis rounding up Jewish families like cattle, but her eyes are drawn to one family in particular, specifically a well-dressed mother imploring Chiara (or anyone, really) with her eyes to rescue her son. And on a crazy impulse, that is exactly what Chiara does. She claims the boy is her nephew and before she realizes the gravity of what she has done, she is headed home with a sullen 8-year-old named Daniele Levi in tow.
Cecilia, who suffers from epilepsy and has brain damage that has left her behaving more like a petulant little girl than anything else, is quick to reject Daniele, but Chiara has taken this boy on and is determined to make things work. Eventually, the trio make their way to the countryside to her grandmother/Nonna's farm in the hopes of a better and more peaceful life, but the Nazis are never far behind.
Fast-forward some 30 years and Chiara Ravello is still living in the heart of Rome in the same apartment owned by her parents and the one in which she raised Daniele Levi, whom she has not seen in over a decade. Daniele was always a troubled boy, no doubt scarred by his youth, and although Chiara tried her best, he fell into drugs and stealing, hurting her deeply with his foolish ways. One day she receives a shocking letter from a woman in Cardiff, England claiming to have given birth to Daniele's child 16 years before and was hoping to contact him, but Chiara can't help and replies saying she has no forwarding contact info. Then Daniele's young daughter Maria begins calling, searching for any information on the Italian father she has just discovered she has. She is deep in the throngs of teen angst, made much worse by the revelation that the man she's always knows as her father isn't actually her father and she is grasping for any part of Daniele Levi that she can find. However, she doesn't know the true nature of Chiara's relationship with Daniele and only knows he was her boarder.
She is somehow able to convince her parents and Chiara to let her come visit Rome for two weeks, and in doing so, opens up old wounds for Chiara, but also reinvigorates her. As Maria discovers Daniele, Chiara embraces old memories and thinks that she just might be able to open up to this young girl that has thrown her life into turmoil. The journey that the pair takes together is bittersweet, as is the story of Chiara's past with Daniele, but it is also a story of hope and redemption.
Early One Morning is interestingly written, since the chapters switch between 1943 and the 1970's, and we get to see how Chiara's actions as a young woman affect her for the rest of her life. It's a beautiful and dramatic story of how one moment in someone's life can have great ramifications for their future and others. If you enjoy reading stories about WWII, you should check out Early One Morning. It's a sad, sweet, uplifting and well-written piece.