Brooklyn Story by Suzanne Corso (Gallery, December 2010)
Set in 1978 Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Story is a coming-of-age tale about Samantha Bonti who is half-Jewish, half-Italian living in an Italian neighborhood, longing to be on the other side of the fabled bridge. Samantha lives with her Jewish grandmother and her converted-to-Catholicism mother who has a substance abuse problem and is on welfare, to the embarrassment of Samantha. Her best friend Janice sets fifteen-year-old Samantha up with Tony, half-Dutch, half-Italian, all twenty-years old, the best friend of Janice’s boyfriend Richie. Tony is very good looking, and always has money he’s willing to spend on Samantha, and Samantha is quickly drawn into his world, a world that is not all glitz and glamour as it first appears. Samantha accepts Tony’s overbearing ways as proof of his affection for her, but when he turns violent, she realizes she is in over her head and looks to the adults in her life, including an English teacher and a nurturing priest, for guidance.
The story becomes engaging, but Samantha’s strength of character and determination is hard to believe at times, especially given her young age. Certain things in life can make you grow up quickly, but I didn’t see that growth in Samantha, though she is an admirable young woman. The setting is very authentic and anyone who remembers 1978, especially the city, will remember the same sights and sounds Samantha describes. Brooklyn Story ends with hope for Samantha, leaving readers wondering what she will do next; a sequel is in the works according to the author’s website, which includes questions for discussion.