Charles Cipressi is raised in Buffalo, New York in the 1950s by a mother who is embarrassed by where they live and a father who appears to be involved in some pretty nefarious dealings with other Italian-Americans in the area. His mother is obsessed with Christmas and his father is obsessed with making Charles’s life miserable with competitions his father calls “playing with him.” Father and son finally reach a kind of begrudging peace. It is only after Charles is in high school and working at a local haberdasher that he discovers why his father treated him the way he did. He isn’t his real father. His mother had had an affair that produced Charles, and his biological father shows up in the store and introduces himself. Finding out he has been living a lie is really the beginning of Charles’s story. After giving the parents who raised him the news that he has discovered their lies to him, he takes off and moves out. It is then that mental illness begins to take hold in Charles’s life. He is able to get a doctor to prescribe Valium for him and proceeds to overdose shortly after. It is through visits from his biological father and his stories of surviving Nazi death camps that Charles learns to become a survivor himself, and, though his life often seems to spiral dangerously close to out of control, this is really a story of survival and redemption.
Thomas Chimera has written an interesting book, one that is truly unique. The writing is good and solid. The characters are certainly fascinating and well-drawn, and the times and places where the story takes place are palpably real. The stream-of-consciousness style Chimera chooses has a sense of urgency and immediacy to it, and the book is very compelling. It reads like a quirky memoir but is, in fact, a well-crafted novel.
|Page Count||217 pages|
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