Suspense novelist and screenwriter Lorenzo Carcaterra (Payback; Sleepers) shares an intimate story about the three strong-willed, determined women who "saved" his life. Carcaterra--"the son of an ex-con and a housewife who spoke only Italian [who] grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan"--was raised watching his mother trapped in an abusive, loveless, impoverished marriage to a man who had murdered his first wife. When he was 14, Carcaterra's mother sent him to Ischia, Italy, to spend the summer with his maternal grandmother, Nonna Maria, and other relatives. The trip proved to be a watershed.
Nonna Maria--wise, dignified and of great resilience--becomes a bedrock, championing her sensitive grandson, who has storytelling aspirations. Upon returning to the U.S., Carcaterra grows determined to forge a writing career, though his mother, Raffaela, belittles his goal. Steeped in misery, Raffaela--a widow whose second marriage is to Carcaterra's volatile father--often resents her son for being his bullying father's offspring. Dutiful, devoted Carcaterra, however, stands by his mother through some cruel, searing rejections. When Carcaterra meets Susan, an editor and coworker at the New York Daily News, he finds a soulmate whose love and support help turn the tide. Carcaterra finally launches his novel-writing career and the couple build a beautiful, sadly shortened, life together.
Many heart-wrenching incidents pervade the traumatic landscape of Carcaterra's life. But the richness of his forthright storytelling gives tender form to sadness and loss, shaping it into a deeply moving narrative about hard-fought familial love and forgiveness. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines