The Tale of Lucia Grandi
By Susan Speranza
Release Date: November 2012
2012 Brook House Press
Softcover Edition; 428 Pages
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
When an old woman is
asked to tell the story of her life, she tells is an intense and
poignant tale about growing up in and surviving an irrational, warring
suburban family during the 1950s and 60s. The narrative is told from
Lucia’s perspective as the second child where she and her siblings are
caught in the middle of a lifelong war between her mother, Ruth, an
overbearing, unhappy homemaker, and her father, Leonard, a manipulative,
sometimes violent New York City cop. Lucia is the silent, thoughtful
eyewitness to her parents’ constant and sometimes life-threatening
The Tale of Lucia Grandi is one of those books whereby I really wasn't sure what to think afterwards. Don't get me wrong as I liked it very much, but I can't say that it left me with that hopeful feeling that things will work out for Lucia or that the future will be better than her childhood; rather the novel left me feeling rather disturbed in the sense that I couldn't really get some of the images of Lucia's childhood out of my mind afterwards.
What I really liked about this book is that me really appreciate the kind and loving family in which I grew up. Of course there were problems in my family as there are in every family, but I was never mistreated or abused, and I spent a lot of the time comparing my life with Lucia's and how different they were. I think as children we never truly appreciate the fact of a great home life until we are much older and don't always pay attention to what is happening in other home situations; I felt for Lucia and the suffering and pain she must have felt each and every day of her life. The several scenes where she was physically abused were very painful to read and the author was so adept as getting Lucia's pain, embarrassment and mortification across to the reader. There were times when Lucia also felt detached from what was happening around her, and I thought the author also did a great job in these scenes showing how an abused child would distance themselves in these situations in order shut out the pain and the violence that is happening around them. It was sad to read and to experience as a reader.
One of the things that was depressing about this novel is that I never felt that Lucia actually triumphed over her situation. One of the reasons I like to read fictional biographies, and biographies in general, is to appreciate how a person can triumph over their situations and become motivated to succeed no matter what life has thrown at them. Of course I am a realist and understand that many people do not necessarily succeed when life is tough, but I imagine that many do have many successes in life and many triumphs. I'm not sure if Lucia really did triumph so far and still continued to let her parents rule her life and her emotions even at the end of the novel, and perhaps even her boyfriend. However, I did really love the relationship between Lucia and her grandfather Bernard as he reminded me so much of my own grandfather that I was continuously taking trips down memory lane as I was reading this with a big smile on my face during those scenes. The one scene that stands out in particular is the one where he fed her too much chocolate as I had a similar experience with my 'pepere'.
The Tale of Lucia Grandi is one of those novels that is a bit difficult to describe to another reader. While I did enjoy it, it was somewhat depressing reading about Lucia's abusive childhood and some of the descriptions of her early life did have a tendency to be a bit long-winded (perhaps because it was being related by a hundred-year-old woman). I would have liked there to be a bit more of a relationship between the woman writing down the narrative and Lucia as an old woman as I think that would have been interesting. Although we don't necessarily see Lucia triumph in this novel, which is a bit of a letdown, it is the early years of her life, and perhaps the sequel will be a bit more uplifting than this one. The story did end rather quickly and abruptly, so I am curious as to what happens next; therefore, I will probably read the sequel when it is released.