DARKNESS FALLS by John M. Del Vecchio


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An account of an Italian-American family caught up in contemporary events’school violence, racial clashes, and corporate downsizing—becomes an impassioned wake-up call demanding social change. Although set deep within the awkward and maudlin frame of what are said to be Johnny Panuzio’s last thoughts, Del Vecchio’s (Carry Me Home, 1995, etc.) story, however melodramatic, is clearly rooted in the real world. Johnny Panuzio lives in a lakeside Connecticut city that has an inner-city slum, white suburbs, a manufacturing plant, and teenagers in trouble. Here, Johnny alternates his accounts of the events that occur in the fall and winter of one year with memories of his childhood in a closeknit Italian family. In September, as school opens, Johnny is worried about his job as marketing director (in a corporation that’s just been taken over), about his wife Julia (who’s more and more preoccupied with her publishing job), about his old father Rocco (who seems depressed), and about his second son Jason, a junior in high school. Johnny shares his concerns with his old friend Mitch, a black co-worker whose son Aaron (a gifted student and athlete) is also Jason’s friend and classmate. Events gather momentum as three of Jason’s classmates are killed in a car accident, Aaron is shot to death in the woods, Mitch’s home is firebombed, and Jason almost kills an opponent in a soccer match. In the meantime, Aaron has written a controversial (anti-affirmative action) term paper that Johnny has published, bringing a strongly negative response in the community and among the traditional black leadership. And as a consequence—depressed by this mistake (as it seems to him) and heavily in debt—Johnny attempts suicide by jumping into a lake. After he’s rescued by Mitch and his wife, though, a new Johnny is born—a Johnny who, regaining his forebears’ courage and perseverance, is determined to fight for justice and to live simply. Raw fiction that engages, despite some rough edges and workmanlike prose.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-19216-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998