An organized-crime woman recounts her “illegal, immoral, and unethical activities” in a fashion that will make readers’ hair stand on end, then fall out altogether.
“In 1992, when I was faced with a set of circumstances that was spiraling out of control and threatening my future and my kids’ futures, I resorted to what I knew best—loan-sharking and my family.” Well, 1992 wasn’t really the start of it, for Giovino had been involved with organized crime from an early age. Raised poor in Brooklyn, her mother helped run a Gambino family gaming club and taught seven-year-old Andrea, one of ten children, how to steal morning deliveries of bread to help feed the family. While Giovino tells her story in an edgy, no-prisoners tone (“I stormed into the kitchen, shoved Johnny aside, and got in Michael’s face, ‘Where are my kids, you fucking sick bastard’ ”), the voice of coauthor Brozek emerges in the uncharacteristically snippy asides (“I was no great student, and the calculus of human interaction was going to be my course of study”). From her first encounters with a wiseguy (“You think I’m gonna let you come into my apartment and have sex with me while my kid is up there sleeping, you piece of shit scumbag?”) through a succession of men who traded in absurd quantities of drugs, Giovino’s choices have brutal consequences. She successfully conveys their appeal—“I was addicted to the kind of high that came with being with these guys”—and reminds us that when you’ve been stone-cold poor, “money is a wonderful painkiller . . . after a while, I was beyond comfortably numb.” When the DEA arrested her, pressuring her boyfriend to cooperate with them, Giovino finally took responsibility for her life and straightened out. She now lives, under her own name, in rural Pennsylvania.
“When you’re in the middle of the shit, it’s hard to keep it all straight,” writes Giovino, who’s clear-eyed enough now to tie her story into a neat, terrible bundle.