Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Review: Brooklyn Story by Suzanne Corso

First line: Some people lived in the real world and others lived in Brooklyn.

From the inside cover: It's the summer of 1978, and Samantha Bonti is fifteen years old, half Jewish and half Italian, whose dreams of something more are bigger than the neighborhood girls' teased hair. She lives in Bensonhurst with her mother, Joan, a woman abandoned and scarred in a ruinous marriage, poisoned with cynicism, and shackled by addictions; and with her Grandmother Ruth, Samantha's loudest and most opinionated source of encouragement. As flawed as they are, they are family.

Samantha's best friend is Janice Caputo, a girl who understands, as well as Samantha does, this close-knit community of ancestors and traditions that stand like roadblocks, this insular overcrowded little world of controlling mobsters who mold their women like Jell-O; and of the wannabes, the charismatic young guys who are willing to engage in anything illegal to get a shot at playing with the big boys. Yes, Samantha has something Janice doesn't - a desire to become a writer and to escape the destiny that is assumed for all of them in the outer reaches of Bensonhurst. And it's to be had just across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Then comes Tony Kroon.

Older than Samantha, Tony is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, half-Sicilian, half-Dutch mobster wannabe. A Bensonhurst Adonis. Taken in by his adoring attention, and empathetic to Tony's own struggles with identity, Samantha is falling in love, even when she's warned never to ask imprudent questions of Tony's life. Even when her family and friends warn her to stay away. Even when Samantha knows she's too smart to fall this deep...but the last thing she wants is the first thing to happen. Unable to resist Tony's seductive charms, Samantha soon finds herself swallowed up by dangerous circumstances that threaten to jeopardize more than her dreams. Grandma Ruth's advice: Samantha had better write herself out of this story and into a new one, fast.

Told from the adult perspective, this is a powerful, true-to-life novel of leaving the past to history and the future to fate - of restoring hope where there was none, and reaching for dreams in an inspiring promise of paradise called Manhattan.

My thoughts: This was a very heartfelt, poignant look at a young woman on the brink of adulthood, trying to improve her lot in life by following her dreams. My absolute favorite quote from this book is the advice that Grandma Ruth gives to Samantha: "Write yourself out of this story and into a better one." This, I felt, was the driving force behind Samantha as she works to achieve her dreams. Samantha deals with some heavy issues, such as poverty, crime, drug abuse, and abusive relationships, in her daily life. I think anyone who reads this will find themselves alternately uplifted and heartbroken by the romance and tragedy that define Samantha. I loved how Suzanne Corso interjected lines from songs that reflect the happenings of the story and Samantha's feelings of those happenings. The story had a quick pace and I think the use of Brooklynese enhanced the dialogues in the story. This book mirrors experiences of Suzanne Corso and I give her a lot of kudos for being able to tell such a personal story. This was a great debut novel and I look forward to reading the sequel to this story, which Suzanne Corso is currently working on.

I received a complimentary copy of Brooklyn Story by Suzanne Corso from Gallery Books to review.


  1. Wonderful review. This sounds like a good and gritty coming-of-age story. Interesting that this book has a "soundtrack"!

  2. I read this book for review also, and I enjoyed it myself. Nicely done review!

  3. @ Suko: The song lines throughout were great...I heard they are making a movie of this book and hope the "soundtrack" includes these little lines!

    @Joann: Thanks - it really was a great book - I had a hard time putting it down.

  4. This sound like an intense read! Great review!


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