Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir

Product Description
When Jennifer Mascia is five years old, the FBI comes for her father. At that moment Jenny realizes that her family isn’t exactly normal. What follows are months of confusion marked by visits with her father through thick glass, talking to him over a telephone attached to the wall. She and her mother crisscross the country, from California to New York to Miami and back again. When her father finally returns home, months later, his absence is never explained—and ... More >> Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir

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5 Responses to “Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir”

  • beckyjean says:

    Jennifer Mascia’s memoir of a life spent on the lam with her larcenous parents (one of whom was a mob shooter and a cocaine addict) is surprisingly relatable, even for those of us who haven’t had criminals for parents. The writing is not slick or seamless, but conversational in a way that makes the first three-quarters of the book highly engaging.

    For me, the book broke down after the death of Mascia’s charismatic, mysterious father. The recounting of her mother’s illness, decline, and death and of Mascia’s research into her father’s criminal history seemed less well-written than what had come before, and seemed repetitive and merely personal — it was less transcendent than the earlier parts of the book that detailed the family’s vivid ups and downs.

    Even so, the book is worth a read, especially if you’re Italian, New York Italian, or interested in mob stuff or psychology.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  • Jenna Glatzer says:

    I’ve just finished this book and my head is still spinning a bit. It’s difficult to sum it up in a neat review, because the writing and the story itself are uneven. There are many moments of gritty honesty and revelations about how love can survive beyond all reason, but there are also pages of repetitiveness and navel-gazing.

    In short, Jennifer grows up in a volatile household– it’s filled with cursing and screaming and walking out and her dad getting arrested and several episodes of adults smacking and kicking her… and yet there’s also love. I would think that most kids growing up in this kind of family would wind up bitter and hateful toward her parents, but she manages the opposite. She’s attached to them in ways that go beyond “normal.” As she herself realizes toward the end of the book, it felt cult-like. Her parents’ crimes, being on the lam, and all the covering up, created this insultated threesome who depended on each other and emotionally unloaded on each other all the time.

    For the first half, I admired Jennifer for managing to love her parents so deeply despite their screw-ups, crimes, and even their abandonment (like leaving her with a drug-addicted aunt). By the end, though, I was too bothered by their crimes and no longer understood Jennifer’s fierce loyalty and love for them. It was hard to swallow that she judged her mother for staying married to a murderer, while at the same time talking about how much she loves her dad still and wants to hug him when she thinks about him sitting in prison writing letters to find loopholes to get out, or his affair with his wife’s sister, or whatever. In other words, if she thinks her mother should have walked away from a murderer, why shouldn’t she hold herself to the same standard? What he did was deplorable, and it seems an insult to his victims’ families to still talk about him lovingly.

    The other thing that bothered me was the incessant crying. On literally every third page or so, the author is describing scenes of weeping. Weeping in public, sobbing in each other’s arms, sobbing on the phone… again, at first, this was sort of comical (“emotional Italians!”), but by the end, I felt like it was a strange need to document every moment that ever made her or anyone she knew cry.

    Then there’s the issue of the ending, which comes abruptly in a “Now I’m going to tie it all together and tell you what I’ve learned” sort of way, and it doesn’t end with a natural conclusion… I hoped that it would have a more promising ending, with Jennifer being married or in a good relationship, or with children of her own, or something else that gives us a sense that she’s making good on these thoughts about not repeating the cycle. As it is, it’s pretty remarkable that she’s as sane as she is… it’s impressive that she didn’t seem to soak in much of her parents’ morals.

    All of the book’s faults aside, I still really liked it. It was a perspective on life I’ve never read before, and there were some genuine moments of insight, and some moments of very good writing. Had it gone through stricter editing, this might have been a 5-star book. As it stands, it feels more like a “diamond in the rough” than a fully realized book.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  • E. Samuels says:

    While this book is interesting, it is not at all what I thought it would be. In fact, I felt like I had been a bit duped by the jacket summary and the cover. I thought that the book was going to have more to do with the author living with a parent/or parents who were criminals. In fact, the author’s father did have a criminal past, but it predated the author’s birth (although the author does witness her father being arrested – – I will not mention why – – spoiler). The book is largely about the author’s strained relationship with her parents and the co-dependent lives that they lead. While the author does give a very detailed description of her experiences living through her parents illnesses, which might be interesting to some people, it is not what I believed the book was going to be about, and I was therefore disappointed. I was not looking for a book about living through toxic child/parent relationships, but if I had been this would have been a much more satisfying read.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  • Anon. A. Non says:

    I was really looking forward to reading this book, having had a similar childhood myself. While I enjoyed reading it, I must also confess that at times I found it slightly unbelievable that the author seems to remember thoughts, experiences, minute details and entire conversations–many of which are rather mature in nature–from an extremely young age. This took away from the credibility of the story for me, but only a little, as there’s every possibility that her memories were augmented by later conversations and experiences.

    Having said all that, it’s obvious that Ms. Mascia did in fact live this haywire life, as there are certain experiences she describes that only someone who lived it would know about. It’s a confusing life for a child, and I recognized so many of the situations and questions (and answers that never quite made sense, but you accepted them anyway… how many years can daddy be “away at college”?) she describes. And it carries into your life as an adult; the jury duty anecdote made me howl with laughter because it mirrored one of my jury duty experiences exactly. Actually I often felt like I was reading parts of my own life story. But while so much of it was funny to me because it was so familiar, it will be enlightening–and often amusing–to readers who are unfamiliar with these situations in real life.

    This is an entertaining, absorbing and touching read, and you will be fascinated whether you’ve lived “the life” or not. But if you have, be prepared for a trip down memory lane that you may or may not welcome, depending on your outlook. I gave it an extra star because I know for a fact just how hard it is to adequately describe growing up this way.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • Mike Donovan says:

    You know the old expression, “A child only a parent could love?” Welcome to a story of parents that only a child could love. This is a horribly troublesome read with its redundancy and poorly edited style. This family is far from the All-American family – aren’t we all? But this family is worthy of Jerry Springer. It’s understandable that Jennifer would love her parents and justify so much, but to share it with the world and expect us to accept such tripe? Boring and full of filler, this book was better left unpublished. It was probably good for Jennifer to write, but it should have stayed in the nightstand drawer.
    Rating: 1 / 5

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