Book Review: The Arrival, the Struggle, the Ascendancy

the arrival the struggle the ascendancyAuthor: Edward A. Carosi

Publish Date: January 27, 2016

About the Author: Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, Eddie Carosi is a successful restauranteur and consultant (read – he gave me my first-ever job as a waitress at his celebrated pizza and pasta emporium, Uncle Tony’s). Eddie has won awards for his philanthropic efforts and is well-known in Rhode Island’s Italian-American community. He’s traveled to Europe and the Caribbean on many occasions, and is a bonafide history buff. Having written for local publications in the past, The Arrival, the Struggle, the Ascendancy is his first novel. Side note: I’ve known Eddie and his family for over 10 years, and he affectionately refers to me as “Queen Victoria.”

Synopsis: This book tells the story of three generations of Rossi family members. Beginning in Atri, Italy with Salvatore, leading into Providence’s Silver Lake neighborhood with Salvatore’s son Hugo, and culminating in Calcutta, India with Salvatore’s grandson Hugo Jr., Carosi gives readers a detailed timeline of the Rossi patriarchs’ lives.

A primary character in the novel, Salvatore Rossi was born in a rural region of Italy where he murders a local nobleman who raped and beat Salvatore’s recently-widowed mother. Living as a fugitive in nearby Naples, Salvatore is forced to flee to the United States and ultimately settles in Providence, Rhode Island where he supposedly had some relatives who had emigrated in years prior.

Despite being almost completely on his own upon his arrival, Salvatore is able to learn English and ultimately become a superintendent at Gilborne construction company. He marries his life partner, Francesca, and they have one son together, whom they name Hugo after Salvatore’s father.

Hugo Rossi grows to be a star athlete and frequent attendee of the local Catholic parish, St. Bartholomew’s. He gets married to his high school sweetheart Angelina, with whom he has one son, Hugo Jr. Unfortunately, Hugo Sr. gets caught up in the evils Providence’s underworld as an associate of the Italian Mafia. His troubles worsen after he murders a deranged admirer of his mistress. By cutting a deal with the judge, Hugo’s lawyer is able to help him avoid jail time in exchange for service in the Marine Corps. As a Marine, Hugo is sent to fight in the Korean war, where he dies heroically in combat.

Under the watchful eye of his grandfather Salvatore, Hugo Jr. spends his youth playing sports and working legitimate jobs. After high school, he makes the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Marines and gets sent to fight in Vietnam. Upon his return to Rhode Island, he meets the love of his life, Lorraine. At a certain point after coming home, Hugo Jr. feels compelled to work with Missionaries of Charity. He first travels to the Bronx to perform service work until he is called upon by Mother Theresa herself to offer his aid in Calcutta. Hugo takes a leap of faith and works in India’s poorest slums for some months where he relieves the dying and ousts crime on a daily basis. The novel finishes with Hugo boarding a plane back home to New England from India.

My Review

My first impression of this story could be summed up in a word: WOW. Eddie’s novel is the definition of a page-turner, as no moment in this 400+ page book was ever dull or dragging. Every second of reading is filled with some detailed account of crime, love, corruption, spirituality, sexuality, and war experienced by the Rossi family. Inspired by true events, these family members lived genuinely thrilling lives.

The irony in all this excitement is that many of these events could’ve happened to anybody. Take for instance, the immigration of a poor European to America at the turn of the century, or the deployment of two homegrown young men to South Korea and Vietnam. While these experiences might be somewhat “common”, they’re certainly not boring. And the way they panned out for the Rossi family was anything but. Eddie gives readers insight into the hardships caused by affiliation with the Mafia and the challenges of enlisting in the Marine Corps, not to mention the journey to the United States from the other side of the Atlantic.

Besides the vivid recounts of events that occurred quite literally all over the world, one of my favorite aspects of this story was how Eddie described day-to-day life in 20th-century Rhode Island. I found myself smiling and nodding when he would first introduce a local landmark or phenomenon that I’ve had a first-hand encounter with.  And to be frank, it was this facet of the novel that I was originally least excited about. Before reading, I thought I’d find myself saying, “Here goes Eddie giving us the play-by-play of 1950’s thug life with all the big-shot Vinny’s and Tony’s” (which, believe me, there was plenty of). Instead, I thought to myself while reading, “How cool it is that he’s making the world familiar with the melodrama that exists my own backyard?”. 

Another kudos I’ll give my friend is his ability to transition from decade to decade and country to country while still maintaining a cohesive plot. Because of the thorough explanation and rising action provided in prior events, subsequent events flow naturally into the story and make the reader curious to know how the current fiasco will impact the next. I will also applaud Eddie on his attention to detail in his descriptions of rural Italy, sunny California, swampy Asia, sweltering India and everywhere in between.

But we know it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I can’t be for certain if this was only a problem in the copy that I received, but this book is CHOCK-FULL of grammatical errors. As in missing quotations, incorrect punctuation, and misspellings…throughout the entire book. While I don’t know the editor as well as I know Eddie, I have met him personally on several occasions would tell him face-to-face that his work is in serious need of proofreading. While I would never want to damage this individual’s ego (or even just hurt his feelings), I think it needs to be made known that the grammatical errors in this book significantly downplayed the excellence of Eddie’s work. Again, I’m not positive if this was an isolated incident, but the reader of another separate copy expressed the same disdain to me.

Another less offensive issue was the introduction of literally dozens of characters, many whom did not have a significant role in the novel’s grand scheme. While I understand the need to include additional individuals where necessary to recount a particular event, I felt that in some instances a character had little relevance and just made the overall plot harder to follow.

Overall Impressions:

  • Prepare to be wildly entertained.
  • …but beware of grammatical flaws.
  • An inspirational account of suburban life in New England as it’s intertwined with the tragedy of war and the humility experienced only by traveling to faraway lands.

The Verdict:

4-5_starrating

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