Before the baby was born, I read a really good book.
It was one of the handful of books recommended to me by the new guy at work; the poet from UCI.
It’s In Revere, In Those Days by Roland Merullo. It reads like a memoir, and the main character, a boy named Anthony Benedetto follows the same coveted academic path through Phillips Exeter Academy and Brown University as the author. On the other hand, I think it must be fiction, because who could ever get away with writing so honestly about the other people in his life?
The wonderful thing about Merullo’s story-telling is how he imbues Tony’s youth with all the importance our own history holds for each of us – he hits every relationship with just the right amount of significance and tenderness. Tony’s relationship with his cousin Rosalie, his grandparents, his uncle Gus, an older woman friend, Lydia, are all completely real and believable and played out with impeccable story-telling timing and grace.
Merullo says it best in his Prologue when he writes:
” We are crude, generous, beautiful, vicious; we wear a patchwork disguise made from a hundred talents, habits, and needs, and underneath it lies this spark of something else, something larger than our labels and flaws. You can see that spark clearly in children before the coat of the personality grows too thick…
This is the story of the rescue of one soul. It’s the story of an ordinary kid who had all the shell burned off him, all the armor. Something like that happens to most people in the course of a life, I think, though not usually at such a young age.”
Merullo writes the same way he speaks about this one kid; his prose has all the chaff burned off and so his writing is very intense and poetic, which suits his story perfectly. To top it off, Merullo also captures perfectly the twang and slide of the Italian immigrant’s version of a Boston accent, which makes the dialogue at times painful, and at times hilarious to read.
This is the best book I’ve read in a long while and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quality read this summer. I warn you though, you will probably cry.