The emotional author’s anxiety-ridden memories, as he struggles to find his place in the world–and in his family, following the deaths, 20 years apart, of his immigrant Sicilian paternal grandparents.
As a boy growing up in Queens, New York., Alaimo regularly escaped into the comfort of his deeply ingrained Catholicism in order to offset an inability to fit in to life outside his intensely religious Italian-American family. Uncomfortable with his looks and riddled with social angst, the young Alaimo was often so desperate to be anywhere but at school–where he was the subject of constant ridicule–that he regularly sought haven on weekdays in the dark recesses of Manhattan’s grand St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Sitting through as many as three Masses a day, he continued to light candles to the saints, begging them to deliver him from his travails. Only his beloved Nonna, around whom the story revolves, understands him. Her 1981 death from cancer is landmark, as is that of his Nonno, two decades later. It is only then, as a man, that Alaimo comes to terms with both himself and his family, finding the strength to deliver a passion-filled eulogy. The prose is heartfelt and intense, but also tends toward the melodramatic, relying often on laborious over-description for emphasis. At times, the author’s neediness becomes as tedious as the blow-by-blow descriptions of minor conversations and events. It’s also unclear why he relies frequently on a third-person description of himself. Nonetheless, the wonder of his dead grandmother’s visitations in his hours of need is inspiring, as is the evolution of his resolve to take control of his life.
Not a bad first attempt from a non-professional writer looking to memorialize himself and those he loves.