By Eddie Joyce
Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP
Publication Date: 3/10/2015
My Rating: 4 Stars
"Eddie Joyce’s terrific first novel is so American that the story might as well have taken place at the base of the Statue of Liberty. His Amendola family and their beloved Staten Island may be flawed, but they represent what’s best and most necessary in the American character, what our tired and poor still yearn for.”-- Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls.
A startling and tender portrait of one family’s struggle to make peace with their son’s death An ingeniously layered narrative, told over the course of one week, Eddie Joyce’s debut novel masterfully depicts an Italian-Irish American family on Staten Island and their complicated emotional history. Ten years after the loss of Bobbythe Amendola family’s youngest soneveryone is still struggling to recover from the firefighter’s unexpected death. Bobby’s mother Gail; his widow Tina; his older brothers Peter, the corporate lawyer, and Franky, the misfit; and his father Michael have all dealt with their grief in different ways. But as the family gathers together for Bobby Jr.’s birthday party, they must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina’s life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one.
Presented through multiple points of view, Small Mercies explores the conflicts and deep attachments that exist within families. Heart-wrenching and profoundly relatable, Joyce’s debut is a love letter to Staten Island and a deeply affecting portrait of an American family.
A special thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Viking and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
SMALL MERCIES, a powerful, absorbing, and emotional rich debut by talented Eddie Joyce, a psychological account offamily, tragedy, sorrow, loss and love. Told from different POVs, an Italian-Irish American working class multi-generational family living on Staten Island; the Amendola family. They are struggling to recover from Bobby's unexpected death, a firefighter, hero, a husband, a son, and father, in the Twin Towers on 9/11. He was one of the many first-responders who never made it out of the burning buildings. Bobby's mother Gail; his widow Tina, his older brothers Peter, the corporate lawyer, Frankie, the black sheep and misfit, and father, Michael, have all dealt with their grief in their own ways. We hear from each character with issues and stories of their own. From strong personalities, especially Gail, the matriarch and rock, mother (Irish Catholic) who desperately tries to hold the family together. Married into a family of Italian Catholic and all sorts of problems of families with topics of March Madness basketball, alcoholism, marriage problems, emotional baggage, infidelity, among others. Gail’s world revolves around her family and her home. Gail continues to resent her husband and mourn her son 10 years after his death, and still talks to him. She has little relationship with her oldest son, Peter, the one who escaped to become a successful lawyer. Gail is disappointed and Michael retreats to alcohol and silence. Michael, the husband, firefighter, like Bobby, goes to the Leaf, for drinks every night. Bobby Sr. became a firefighter like his father, Michael, who strongly resisted becoming a butcher like his own immigrant father, thus depriving his family of some security. Peter is the 'successful' son, a corporate lawyer who has made a life-wrenching mistake and may now lose his wife and children. He has left Staten Island, and resides in Manhattan. No one else in the Amendola family has left 'the rock', their nickname for Staten Island. Peter is married to Lindsay and the big question is can she forgive him for what he's done. Middle son Frankie, the family’s black sheep, an alcoholic who's never been the same since his brother died. He is in and out of trouble, jail, and drunk most of the time. The lost child, the 'loser' broke, and looking for the next female to bed, and someone to bail him out of trouble. Bobby’s widow, Tina, with whom Gail is very close, has finally become involved with another man, introduced to her by Peter. She wants to bring Wade to Bobby Jr.’s birthday party without a scene and hopes they will accept her decision, as she wants to remain a part of the extended family. Tina and two children, want to find a new life and a future in order to move on. The big event, Bobby Jr.’s birthday party. They must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina's life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one. A heartbreaking story, covering one week. Ten years have passed and they feel they should be getting on with their lives; however, how do you forget? Joyce writes with sensitivity and compassion, as you feel the guilt, the doubt, suffering, sorrow, and the deep emotion from this tragedy of 9/11; from each of the respective character voices. Flashbacks and reminiscences from present to past, the author cleverly ties all pieces together with raw emotion, and different perspectives--from their humble beginnings to their all hopes and dreams. Joyce delivers an outstanding betrayal of a flawed yet remarkable American family, with well-developed realistic characters; beautifully written, from lies to truths, a tender portrait of a grieving family, mixed with humor and honesty, and assured to capture your heart. Looking forward to reading more from this gifted storyteller!