Reviewed by Julia Ann Charpentier July 24, 2014
"This post-World War II escapade is a classic migrant tale that packs in mystery and adventure as it takes readers from Italy to New York to the American West. In The Grand Junction, an intriguing novel loaded with 1950s realism, Joe Costanzo exposes the deceit and corruption entrenched in the human desperation to succeed.
Constanzo’s protagonists are far from convoluted, but the plot is an involved experiment in pushing the limits of credibility. Prompted by his enraged and worried mother, a baffled woman who wants her husband found, Tommy Caruso leaves his native Italy to search for his missing father in America. In the process, he matures in the New World, finding himself long before he will ever locate his dad.
An entourage of friends and acquaintances form an unusual cast of characters surrounding Tommy as he seeks definitive answers to the countless questions that arise during his prolonged pursuit. Tommaso Senior is a popular man. Everyone seems to be searching for him, including the FBI and CIA; even the mafia is interested in learning his whereabouts. Tommy’s newfound American siblings also have questions, along with the women who loved this paternal opportunist who was apparently also a scoundrel.
Peppered with straightforward humor and evocative descriptive passages, this well-researched book allows a glimpse of a time when America seemed boundless: “If there was one thing Tommy had learned for sure since leaving the Bronx it was that America was bigger and emptier than anything he could have ever imagined. A person could ride the rail or drive a car all day long and never see a city, a town, a house or even a single human being. A few cows, if you were lucky. And that was before you got to Chicago. After that, America got even bigger and emptier.”
This moment from the recent past is an ideal backdrop for sketches of eccentric people and rugged, dangerous environments, a natural storybook canvas that Costanzo has painted much like an expressionist portraying the feel of a place while leaving some of the sordid details to the imagination. The Grand Junction is a short read that could have benefited from a longer framework and a slightly slower pace, allowing adequate exploration of this complicated and darkly mysterious scenario. This meticulous work is a tad overloaded with information for a book of fewer than two hundred pages.
A native of Pedivigliano in southern Italy, Joe Costanzo is a prolific, award-winning journalist living in the US. His ancestral roots enrich the quality of his fiction, adding authenticity that only an Italian could provide.
This cross-genre novel will attract loyal fans of historical America and coming-of-age literary realism."
"Costanzo (Restoration, 2014, etc.) presents his readers with a lush, literary portrait of family and culture across America after the second world war.
Tommy Caruso hasn’t seen his mascalzone (scoundrel) of a father for years, but he has his own life to live. His mother may have sent him to America from Naples to track down the deadbeat, but Tommy is more concerned with keeping track of his girlfriends. What’s more, the place mentioned in his last disappointing Christmas card—Livingstone, Colorado—doesn’t even seem to exist. The introduction is stunted by Tommy’s lack of investment in the search, but once he starts across the country, spurred on by his mother’s unquenchable temper, the story picks up speed. Tommy meets an excellent cast of secondary characters, uncovers layer upon layer of his father’s double life, and he soon realizes that the real story goes much deeper into the realms of crime, deception and American history than he could have imagined. But while Tommy’s discovery of his father’s life and the various branches of the Caruso family are fascinating, the novel’s greatest strength is in its breadth rather than its depth. From Laurie, a young woman who wants nothing more than to escape the dullness of her family, to Dolores, a Navajo girl hoping to use her college education to help her people, Tommy rarely witnesses a piece of American culture without also finding its opposite. And while he stumbles through his own life, he remains open to the stories around him. Even when he stays in one place for a while, he never stands still, becoming a barber and a chef in turn, meeting men out of history and forging memories of home in to a brilliant future. Tommy abruptly disappears from these jobs to continue his search, lending the novel a disjointed atmosphere at times, but overall, the story flows naturally, knitting together stories of both the beauty of the American dream and the failings of American reality.
Short and sweet; a mosaic of people, places and culture well worth knowing."
Willis M. Buhle - Reviewers Bookwatch Aug. 2014
"The Grand Junction is a novel with a wry twist on the concept of "like father, like son". In the years after World War II, "bird of passage" Tommaso "Thomas" Caruso vanishes. His wife sends their equally free-spirited (to put it in the kindest possible light) son in search of him. But even as the son's ventures on his quest (when he's not sidetracked by three girlfriends), he learns that more and more other people are also looking for Thomas: wives, the FBI, the CIA, and the mob! An increasingly convoluted journey that becomes more and more fantastic the further it progresses - involving everything from Walt Disney and Joe Bonnano to atomic bombs and the Roswell UFO - The Grand Junction is uproariously conniving to the very end. Highly recommended."
Tommy Caruso is a young man in Naples in the 1950s. His father, Thomas, who has been absent for years, sends his mother a corkscrew from America, prompting Tommy’s mother to send him to hunt Thomas down and kill him with the device. Tommy’s quest begins in New York City and then takes him to Colorado, where the last message from his father was sent. Along the way, he meets a woman, Laurie, who is desperate to get out of her small farm life and have adventures. Upon arriving in Colorado, they discover that Thomas is embroiled in dealings that the FBI is curious about, and he’s managed to have not one but two secret families in the United States. Tommy and Laurie find an unlikely ally in Tom Junior, Thomas’s American son, and the three of them continue the quest. It sends them to a uranium mine, a Navajo reservation, and finally the truth. This fun, fast-paced tale tracks a contemporary immigrant story across a familiar American postwar landscape. Costanzo’s knowledge of Italian culture and Italian-American immigrant experiences immediately lends an air of authenticity and charm, and makes the reader quick to accept the improbable direction the story takes when the smuggling and government conspiracies are introduced. (BookLife)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014