Thank you Harper Collins UK for gifting me an advanced review copy of The Family! Readers, brace yourself, this is a book that is very different to the genres and stories I usually read…but I mentioned wanting to diversify my reads in 2022 and I wasn’t disappointed with this one.
Here’s the blurb:
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 itself.
Two daughters. Two families. One inescapable fate.
Sofia Colicchio is a free spirit, loud and untamed. Antonia Russo is thoughtful, ever observing the world around her. Best friends since birth, they live in the shadow of their fathers’ unspoken community: the Family. Sunday dinners gather them each week to feast, discuss business, and renew the intoxicating bond borne of blood and love.
But the disappearance of Antonia’s father drives a whisper-thin wedge between the girls as they grow into women, wives, mothers, and leaders. Their hearts expand in tandem with Red Hook and Brooklyn around them, as they push against the boundaries of society’s expectations and fight to preserve their complex but life-sustaining friendship. 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.
I must admit that the beginning was very slow and I struggled to connect with the characters at first. At the same time, I was very intrigued by this mysterious family at the heart of multiple Italian mafia networks. So my curiosity kept me going, and halfway through the book, I was hooked. I wanted to know every detail of Sofia and Antonia’s lives, to follow their fate amidst the chaos and the uncertainty that they faced everyday. The gripping suspense as I advanced in the story made me think about these two characters even when I wasn’t reading, especially about their indescribable friendship. It seemed to me that the whole story pushes the reader to reflect on the different meanings that the word “family” can take with certain people. Sofia and Antonia were not related by blood but their lives were interlinked in so many ways that you could think of them as real sisters.
Mafia stories are rarely recounted by women (The Godfather, Boardwalk empire…) and I think that this is what makes this story so interesting. I didn’t expect at all to find a heavy focus on the themes of friendship, marriage, and motherhood in a book about family crimes. Yet it is this very balance between mystery and complex relationship dynamics that I enjoyed reading about. As for the writing, I found it very “cold” initially: a lot of short sentences, and comparisons which I didn’t like (I like more descriptive and flowery language) but again, I started enjoying it halfway because I realised that it matched the atmosphere of the story.
This book reminded me a LOT of My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante, in terms of pace, writing and some parts of the story. I liked both of them and I think that they officially convinced me to continue exploring new genres!