By: Jennifer Mascia
Publication Date: February 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 22, 2010
Jennifer Mascia never really understood how to connect the pieces of her puzzling family life until much later. She never quite understood the unusual family dynamic until she started asking questions. Her memory wouldn’t allow her to recollect when the FBI came to cuff her father, but every memory after that was crisp and clear. “Jesse, are they arresting my daddy?” He told the five-year-old they were making a movie, but do movies really take away daddies?
She loved her Daddy Cassese Mascia, but did not understand that Frank Cassese was her father Johnny’s alias. Things blended together in her young mind. Jenbo, as she became known to the family, would have a lot of questions to ask, but in the meantime, she would live a lie and hear more of them. One certainty, delivered from her mother Eleanor’s lips was that, “You must never tell our business to strangers…they are not your family. They are not your blood.” (p. 35) Her father had spilled a lot of blood and silence was the key to their survival.
Jenbo saw a lot of unusual things, but as a saucy teenager she ignored them. There was the "bank account" hidden in the floor. Her father’s carpet business was sold and they were moving again. Sometimes they were “slumming in style” and other times they collected food stamps. They busted out credit cards because her mother had a penchant for high fashion. Up until the business was sold everything seemed normal to her.
Later she began to ask questions, questions that would lead to more questions. She was wondering why her father spent twelve years in prison and was worried it was for something horrible like rape. When she asked her mother for a few specifics, it turned out to be something much more sinister than she expected. Jenbo certainly didn’t expect her mother to say, “Your father was an associate of one of the criminal families in New York.”(p. 81) Why did he murder these men? Was it “four, maybe five?” Why would her mother stay with a man like that? Did she really know who her father was?
This narrative, on one level was very disappointing, but heartening on another. The premise that this book would be an exposé on mob life and Jennifer Mascia’s family’s involvement was cursory at best. References to mob life surfaced when Jennifer later, as an adult, understood the reason why her father was taken away and once again when she began her search to find out about her parent’s deep dark secrets. The writing was unfortunately pedestrian with an overwhelming amount of personal detail and resurrected dialogue.
What I did like was Mascia’s discovery of how special her family life was. The obstacles her parents had to overcome to hide their past from their daughter in order to make her life secure and to make her feel loved were admirable. This was a memoir of a dysfunctional couple who were determined to bypass their own fallibility to give their child a better life.
Quill says: If you are going into this book thinking “Sorpranos,” you will be gravely disappointed, but if you approach it expecting to find a family who escaped the clutches of the mob and found love, you will enjoy the read.