The protagonist of this coming-of-age novel set in late-1970s New York City falls under the wing of an unlikely mentor: Lou Reed.
The Sopranos actor Imperioli’s first novel begins with a family sundered. Narrator Matthew details the death of his estranged father, his mother’s growing dependence on pills, and an inheritance that prompts the two of them to leave the confines of their Queens neighborhood for an upscale apartment in Manhattan. Among their neighbors is Lou Reed, at a point in his life when he rapidly veered from grandiose to paranoid, from generous to menacing. As Matthew comes to terms with his feelings for his classmate Veronica, he becomes increasingly aware of perspectives other than his own, along with a growing restlessness. Early on, Matthew recalls a dinner with a boorish friend of his that quickly turns violent, as he lashes out after his friend makes a number of grotesque and sexist comments. At the beginning of the next chapter, he pauses and then recants his earlier words: “I’m a liar. A liar and a coward.” Imperioli plays with this kind of narrative tension throughout. The arc of the novel—a young man forming a tense, unpredictable bond with a mercurial mentor—is familiar, but Imperioli’s lived-in details about the city help make the world feel realistic. And while some of the novel’s characters, Veronica in particular, call out for more time on the page, the end result is an immersive trip into its narrator’s memories of a turbulent time.
Some fictional trips into 1970s New York abound with nostalgia; this novel memorably opts for grit and heartbreak.