McKeever’s (The Galindez Case, 2013, etc.) crime novel dives into the overlapping worlds of the Mafia, New York City cops and the restaurant business, through the eyes of a war veteran trying to find himself.
After the Korean War, Joey Mancuso, aka “Joey Fizz,” isn’t quite sure what to do. All his friends have places to go, but he doesn’t feel drawn back to his New York City hometown. Rudderless, he visits his friend Clay, who was blinded in Korea. They take a trip to Yosemite National Park in California together, which gives Joey a little more purpose. He decides to take a circuitous route to New York and visit some friends, seeing the real America along the way. In the process, he contemplates spirituality and religion, and tries to figure out his life. McKeever continues this theme of drifting throughout the novel. When Joey makes it back to New York, he gets a job as a waiter and tries to avoid his Mafioso uncle, Vinnie, and the life of crime he promises. Later, Joey falls briefly into a job as a private investigator, which takes him to Paris, but this doesn’t last, and soon Joey is in Las Vegas, once again attempting to escape the reach of his uncle and his shady associate, Fishbone. There, Joey gets the idea to open a delicatessen back East. He thinks he’s finally found the perfect spot to start a quiet life—until he discovers that the deli is a drop point for the Mafia. Overall, readers will find McKeever’s portrayal of Joey’s life to be a colorful journey. At times, however, the novel sometimes seems too eager to provide illuminating insights, as when characters reveal their inner thoughts to complete strangers, just to make a philosophical point. For example, one woman tells Joey, “You make a bargain with your life, and sometimes you don’t get any change back when you pay the price to get in and try to live your dream.” Such moments might have been more effective if they were allowed to unfold more naturally during the course of the story.
A meandering, cross-country novel about one man’s life that too often rushes its epiphanies.