An idealistic, hardworking Italian-Canadian finally decides to defy his domineering father in this debut memoir.
DeLuca’s story actually starts with the immigration of his father, Giovanni, from Italy to the United States at age 16. Giovanni then slipped over the border to Canada after beating up a menacing, racist police officer. The fact that DeLuca even now doesn’t know the whole story sets the pattern for a nearly constant lack of communication between father and son. DeLuca and his brother toiled in Giovanni’s bakery, which became popular and successful, and yet it seemed that the two young men never had any money. DeLuca was sought after as a pastry chef, but he could never satisfy the arrogant Giovanni or win his affection. In his work, the author recalls his struggles to please this womanizing braggart while supporting his humiliated mother, until the day DeLuca walked away from the family business and his duties as a pastry chef for the rest of his life. Mocked by Giovanni, DeLuca worked in management at a “big box” bakery and married a divorcée, which scandalized his traditional relatives. Pulled in one direction by his obsessive desire to get even with Giovanni, in another by a wife who, having left her own difficult marriage, counseled her husband to quit trying to change his father, and haunted by guilt, DeLuca drew on his faith in God to strive for some sort of peace in the family. But not before his rage threatened to estrange him from the clan entirely. Action-oriented and heartfelt, this book offers an intriguing look at the difficult life of a self-employed baker. The 18 emotional chapters, each headed by a Bible verse (heavy on Psalms and Ecclesiastes, with one from Job), recount office politics, sexual temptations, unreasonable customers, and neighborhood loyalty. Giovanni is still alive, and in an Afterword, DeLuca decides to finally forgive his father. Toward the end of the memoir, the author’s list of grievances becomes rather histrionic and interrupts the story. While the squabbling remains episodic, DeLuca eventually shows maturity and delivers a sardonic self-assessment.
A funny, infuriating, and engrossing tale of family betrayal and accord, though not quite reconciliation.