Costanzo (Restoration, 2014, etc.) presents his readers with a lush, literary portrait of family and culture across America after the second world war.
Tommy Caruso hasn’t seen his mascalzone (scoundrel) of a father for years, but he has his own life to live. His mother may have sent him to America from Naples to track down the deadbeat, but Tommy is more concerned with keeping track of his girlfriends. What’s more, the place mentioned in his last disappointing Christmas card—Livingstone, Colorado—doesn’t even seem to exist. The introduction is stunted by Tommy’s lack of investment in the search, but once he starts across the country, spurred on by his mother’s unquenchable temper, the story picks up speed. Tommy meets an excellent cast of secondary characters, uncovers layer upon layer of his father’s double life, and he soon realizes that the real story goes much deeper into the realms of crime, deception and American history than he could have imagined. But while Tommy’s discovery of his father’s life and the various branches of the Caruso family are fascinating, the novel’s greatest strength is in its breadth rather than its depth. From Laurie, a young woman who wants nothing more than to escape the dullness of her family, to Dolores, a Navajo girl hoping to use her college education to help her people, Tommy rarely witnesses a piece of American culture without also finding its opposite. And while he stumbles through his own life, he remains open to the stories around him. Even when he stays in one place for a while, he never stands still, becoming a barber and a chef in turn, meeting men out of history and forging memories of home in to a brilliant future. Tommy abruptly disappears from these jobs to continue his search, lending the novel a disjointed atmosphere at times, but overall, the story flows naturally, knitting together stories of both the beauty of the American dream and the failings of American reality.
Short and sweet; a mosaic of people, places and culture well worth knowing.