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Lewis Turco, La Famiglia /The Family:  Memoirs.   New York: Bordighera Press, 2009.  pp. 196. $15.00. Review by Joseph Danciger.

 

This is a fascinating book for people who like to read written by a man who likes to write: as Lewis Putnam Turco says, “Writing makes [him] happy”.  He writes about his Italian immigrant Protestant father and his family. Stories with unusual turns, told in a personal and engaging way, abound in this volume. These are the type of stories you would like to know about your own family, if only you could. The book unfolds in a series of essays, poems, and stories.

 

“La Famiglia / The Family”, by Lewis Putnam Turco shows in its title the dichotomy of a family that is of an Italian and an American origin: a family with Old New England roots and a Protestantism brought from Italy. These influences affect the individuals, who are varied in their intellect and conscience.

 

The poetry introduces different moods and interpretations. Turco is a poetic master, and his precision and inventiveness are apparent. The poem ”Requiem for a Name” tells of the ups and downs of a historic family surname. One might say the meter is the message.

 

This book is full of richly painted scenes of what we once were in America, --of the days half a century or more ago. Some of the stories are funny and a few are strange, but they are all honest and revealing. They tell about a family and about a man who took up the pen rather than the pulpit.

 

Some sections are by other authors, such as Luigi Turco, the author’s father, "A Letter to My Son", which deepens the sense of connection within the book.  Also included are reviews of Turco's poems, and a letter to him from his cousin.

 

One particularly delightful anecdote in a homey context recounts how, as a boy, once Lewis Turco tied his younger brother to the porch when he had to baby-sit him:  "I didn't want to be tied down myself, so I made sure he was safe and then hunted up the gang on Windsor Avenue to fool around with.  I recall Gene yelled and cried a lot, but as long as I could hear him I knew he  was okay."

 

Thanks to almost cinematic descriptions the hot dusty day in a small town corner store in “Lemon Ice”, becomes real: “Now he [the narrator] knows why Mrs. Augustino’s veils and laces remind him of webs, for there are webs in the corners of the store”.

 

Anyone who has been an immigrant, or has tried to tell a story about one’s memories will enjoy this book. He is a careful observer of the individual and his environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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