Thursday, December 9, 2021

Book Review: The Family by Naomi Krupitsky

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Source: Publisher for review 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  
 

 

Goodreads says, "In the vein of an American Elena Ferrante, a captivating debut novel about the tangled fates of two best friends and daughters of the Italian mafia, and a coming-of-age story of twentieth-century Brooklyn.  Two daughters. Two families. One inescapable fate.  Sofia Colicchio is a free spirit, a loud, untamed thing. Antonia Russo is thoughtful, ever observing the world around her. Best friends from birth, their homes share a brick wall and their fathers are part of an unspoken community that connects them all: the Family. Sunday dinners gather the Family each week to feast, discuss business, and renew the intoxicating bond borne of blood and love. Until Antonia’s father dares to dream of a different life and goes missing soon after. His disappearance drives a whisper-thin wedge between Sofia and Antonia as they become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflicted friendship. Both women are pushing against the walls of a prison made up of expectations, even as they remain bound to one another, their hearts expanding in tandem with Red Hook and Brooklyn around them. One fateful night their loyalty to each other and the Family will be tested. Only one of them can pull the trigger before it’s too late. "

 

It's 1920s in Brooklyn and Sofia Colicchio and Antonia Russo are best friends.  They are growing up together as their fathers are involved in the mob.  Sofia and Antonia are opposites though. Sofia is impulsive, popular, and always testing the boundaries, whereas Antonia is bookish and thinks about things a bit more.  Their parents' weekly Sunday dinners also bind the two families together until tragedy strikes.  Antonia's father "disappears" and this forever changes her life.  Her mother never really gets over it and folds into herself leaving Antonia to figure things out for herself.  Antonia's mother blames the "Family," but knows she needs the the Family's help to survive.  As the years go by and the girls age, they question their futures.  Will they just get married and have kids? Is that all there is? Can they ever leave the Family? Naomi Krupitsky's The Family is a promising debut that examines friendship, family, and loyalty.  

I really liked Antonia in The Family and my heart went out to her.  She lost her dad unexpectedly and her mother is severely lacking. She can't seem to pick herself up and start her life over and instead lives in the shadows.  Because of this, Antonia finds herself relying on Sofia and her family more and more.  She knows she can count on her friendship with Sofia as well as their reliable Sunday dinners.  As they get older, Antonia has plans for herself, but is drawn to a young man who works for the Family.  Will she ever be able to break free? Sophia starts asking herself the same question as the years go on, but then starts wondering if she really wants to? What's her role in the Family? Both women have their gender in common in an Italian American world where women are second class citizens.  Maybe they can change that? But as the years go on, they find themselves falling into the traditional gender roles and expectations.  

The first half of The Family is pretty slow. I had a tough time getting into it, but once things started to pick up, I was hooked. I especially appreciated the thematic similarities to Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. If you like that series, you will appreciate this debut despite the fact that it doesn't dig as deep as Ferrante.

I also appreciated Krupitsky's ability to examine gender and its role in the Italian American world as well as the time period.  There's so many limitations for the women and Krupitsky examines how women are treated by society, by their spouses, how difficult it is to gain independence, and the trials and tribulations of motherhood.  

While the ending was a bit over the top, I still appreciated The Family overall and how it showcases the cost of the American dream. 


4 comments:

  1. Bummer about the ending and the slow start! I prefer for things to feel more realistic, especially when the author is wrapping up the story. I also struggle with books that have a slow place. I do have this one on NetGalley so hopefully I can get to it soon. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! Once you can get past the slow opening, things definitely pick up! Thanks for visiting, Lindsi!

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  2. I've never really read a story about the mafia before, but this sounds really interesting!

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    1. I think you'd like it, Angela! Thanks for dropping by!

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