I’ve read every mafia book under the sun and this one followed suit- to a point. I read Operation Family Secrets by Frank Calabrese Jr. and expected it to be similar since both were written by mob kids. I wasn’t disappointed. There are plenty of mob highlights explained from a growing girl’s perspective as well as tense conversations with ominous undertones; a veritable playground of mafia minutiae. Fun stuff.
Here’s where it gets crazy. In Mob Daughter, Karen Gravano veers from the standard mob descriptions of homicide, clandestine meetings and dangerous deals. Instead I found myself feeling the repercussions of that life along with her. No matter how many parties she threw or hundred thousand dollar homes she lived in or fancy schools she went to there was no escaping the danger that never ever went away.
Her infamous daddy and predictably timid mafia mother went further than the average to protect Karen and her brother Gerard from the truth about their father’s deadly job. They had regular family dinners throughout her life where each family member stated something new they’d learned that day. Sammy The Bull was not only an effective gangster but also did rather well as a legitimate businessman and loving family man.
This conundrum of personality gives Karen an odd mix of anger, love and admiration for her father that contradicts as much as it compliments itself in her book. Her confusion is palpable and evokes empathy.
She tells of her childhood and growing up mob style. She relays the pain of her father's arrest and conviction and then her days in the aftermath. The good, the bad and the titilating.
I was most struck by the fact that though she experienced profound feelings toward her father, her need to be in contact with him would not dissipate. Despite his actions (which he admitted to her) she needed her daddy. She was also privvy to the despicable way prisoners families are treated.
I enjoyed the book for many reasons. The mafia connection is a draw for any fan of the genre or mafia buff but the morphing from classic mobster true crime to a self-help book of sorts is an amazing feat.