I chose to use this image as the cover of my book because I believed that more than any other picture in the sketchbook, it most closely captured the true essence of my brother. He was a simple person, but not in the sense that he wasn’t intelligent. To the contrary, he was very bright. But simple in the regard that he didn’t need a lot to make him happy, simple in that he was so beautifully uncomplicated, and simple in that he was very down to earth and the opposite of pretentious.

The following passage is from Chapter Ten of The Bird that Sang in Color when Donna first sees this picture:  “I turned the page to find what may have been my favorite. He was dressed in all black, playing a fiddle beneath a smiling crescent moon with a bottle of Jack Daniels at his feet. I could hear him calling himself a fiddler, making clear the distinction between a fiddler and a violin player. I could hear him playing in the kitchen of my old home as Mom kept beat while cooking. I could see his fingers dancing effortlessly on the fretboard. I could feel the joy he had from making music—a joy that could never be taken from him.”

Hope you enjoy the following scene from Chapter Two.


When I heard Vincent playing the fiddle, I hopped right out of bed, put my clothes on, and went into the kitchen to find him playing with Mom keeping beat to the music as she made coffee. He was hunched over the fiddle, tapping his big work boot on the yellow vinyl floor. I watched his fingers dance around the fretboard so fast and precise and became mesmerized.   

“That one’s called ‘Irish Washer Woman,’” he said when he finished playing.

“I love it,” I said, adjusting my eyes to the bright kitchen lights. “Play another.”

“After we eat,” Mom said as she poured pancake batter on the griddle. The air smelled of coffee, and the table had six plates on it with forks beside each one. Gloria, Carmen, and Nancy staggered in and took their usual places, all leaning over on the table as if still waking up. Mom put a big plate of pancakes down on the table, and Vincent grabbed one off the top and took a bite out of it, consisting of almost half of the entire cake.


This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family Trilogy. Each one of these family trilogy books is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.   

Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family Trilogy books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.