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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Never Tell Our Business to Strangers by Jennifer Mascia

Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir Publisher: Villard
ISBN: 0345505352
Pages: 400 pgs
Genre: Memoir
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating: 


Publisher’s Description:
When Jennifer Mascia is five years old, the FBI comes for her father. At that moment Jenny realizes that her family isn’t exactly normal. What follows are months of confusion marked by visits with her father through thick glass, talking to him over a telephone attached to the wall. She and her mother crisscross the country, from California to New York to Miami and back again. When her father finally returns home, months later, his absence is never explained—and Jenny is told that the family has a new last name.  It’s only much later that Jenny discovers that theirs was a life spent on the lam, trying to outrun the law.

Thus begins the story of Jennifer Mascia’s bizarre but strangely magical childhood. An only child, she revels in her parents’ intense love for her—and rides the highs and lows of their equally passionate arguments. They are a tight-knit band, never allowing many outsiders in. And then there are the oddities that Jenny notices only as she gets older: the fact that her father had two names before he went away—in public he was Frank, but at home her mother called him Johnny; the neat, hidden hole in the carpet where her parents keep all their cash. The family sees wild swings in wealth—one year they’re shopping for Chanel and Louis Vuitton at posh shopping centers in Los Angeles, the next they’re living in one room and subsisting on food stamps.

What have her parents done? What was the reason for her father’s incarceration so many years ago? When Jenny, at twenty-two, uncovers her father’s criminal record during an Internet search, still more questions are raised. By then he is dying of cancer, so she presses her mother for answers, eliciting the first in a series of reluctant admissions about her father’s criminal past. Before her mother dies, four years later, Jenny is made privy to one final, riveting confession, which sets her on a search for the truth her mother fought to conceal for so many years. As Jenny unravels her family’s dark secrets, she must confront the grisly legacy she has inherited and the hard truth that her parents are not—and have never been—who they claimed to be. In the face of unimaginable tragedy, Jenny will ultimately find an acceptance and understanding just as meaningful and powerful as her parents’ love.

In a memoir both raw and unwavering, Jennifer Mascia tells the amazing story of a life lived—unwittingly—with criminals. Full of great love and enormous loss, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers will captivate and enthrall, both with its unrelenting revelations and its honest, witty heart.

My Review:
I was really looking forward to this one. One of my big interests is Italian American history. It was my research topic in college and I still love to read books about the topic. Although, I generally avoid books about the mob but I could tell that this one was something more.

Most books about mobs and gangsters (Italian or not) tend to become almost hyperbolic in the Sopranos way. I really liked this book because it did not do that. It was more of a family drama/history then a memoir about mob life. For me, the highlight of the story if Jennifer’s research into her family’s past and the process of discovery and the struggle that discovery causes. I really loved following Jennifer’s journey. It was engrossing and interesting without ever becoming self-serving or whiney.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that most of it takes place in my lovely (not really) hometown of Staten Island, NY. It is weird for me to read about places I know. I know it’s the NYC metropolitan area but, seriously, no one knows it exists. I could totally understand her desire to go over the Verrazano Bridge waving a very enthusiastic goodbye to the borough. 

I highly recommend Never Tell Our Business To Strangers if you are looking for a well-written and conversational memoir. I walked into this book thinking that it was going to be comparable to The Sopranos (not a compliment) but I was pleasantly surprised at how different this family was from that dreadful TV show.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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4 comments:

  1. This book sounds amazing! I'm glad to hear it's realistic and not farcical. Thanks so much for the great review!

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  2. PS - I have an award for you! Check it out: http://thebookishtype.blogspot.com/p/awards.html

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  3. Aww! Thanks so much for the award. It just about made my day :)

    Grace

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  4. [...] Never Tell Our Business to Strangers-Jennifer Mascia [...]

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