Just when debut memoirist Sorrentino was thrilled with his new life in New York City, his father became paralyzed from the chest down, and the author returned to his conservative little hometown.
Sorrentino offers a very tender story, if increasingly fraught, about the Christmas he went to spend with his family in West Long Branch, New Jersey, after which he didn’t return to his NYC apartment for four years. That Christmas Eve was back in 1980, when the writer was 24. Whether or not a quarter-century distance has beveled his perspective, his sense of humor, and responsibility seems abiding and indelible. The Sorrentinos were a delightfully functional family, a liberal bunch in a Republican town, who had worked hard, had their ups and downs, but kept an even keel and maintained strong ties to a wide and local network of kin. Steven decides to stay and run the family’s luncheonette, a recent purchase of his father’s after his investment business went kaput in the downturn of the 1970s. It was a sacrifice, but never a question. Sorrentino had just moved to New York, where he was as happy as he could possibly be pursuing his career in musical theater and his gay love life. (His sexual orientation was apparently always an open secret in the family, though the rest of the town “didn’t seem to notice that the Sorrentino boy [then age eight] was having a little too much fun in his mother’s sling-backs.”) In tones warm, tart, and exasperated, Sorrentino chronicles his days getting to know the business and its regulars, watching as his father’s health swung up, then deteriorated, and assuming civic responsibilities while suffering the loss of career and love. These losses blossomed into a very real crisis, yet in recounting them the author manages to wink at the past rather than stare at it.
Describes with a natural ease the vigilance necessary to keep the faith, value life, and live in the present.