Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Painting the Invisible Man

From the back of the book:
While researching the online archives of the providence journal, writer Anna Matteo makes a keying error -a simple mistake that leads her to a path she'd been avoiding most of her life; on a journey inside the world of her father, Paulie Matteo, killed gangland-style more than two decades ago.

Driven by fate and goaded by a muse in the persona of writer Amy tan, Anna delves into her painful and unresolved past, to uncover the truth about her father-dubbed The Invisible Man.
Painting the Invisible Man is one of the the most compelling stories I have read all year. Maybe it's because I knew it was based on the author's own life or maybe it was the similarities to people I know,* but this story really resonated with me. And once I got into the story, I really didn't want to put this book down.

I wish the story's ending had been a little bit tidier, that it had a neater resolution. But real life isn't like that, I know. The author admits this as much:
In my attempt to paint the portrait of my invisible man, I realized that I will, at best, end up with a representation that is a semblance of my father.
In the end, the story became less about discovering the Invisible Man (the protagonist's father), and more about reconciling with one's own past. It's a powerful message.

Now, notice that I keep saying story, rather than book. The book itself was a little rough around the edges, in my opinion. I found the writing to be choppy, and the author frequently jumped back and forth in time, which sometimes left me confused. But the author's message and her story trumped these complaints, and I felt compelled to keep reading, to find out where the story would take me.

I can't compare this book to other books about the mob, since, as I've mentioned, I haven't read any, but seems like a pretty unique and unusual story to me. I think anyone who normally reads books about the mafia would be intrigued by this look at the effects a life of organized crime has on the family.

Buy Painting the Invisible Man on Amazon.

* No, I don't know anyone in the mafia. But Italian and catholic? I know lots of people like that.

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