John Fante is an American writer who doesn’t get his due respect. The man writes with passion, anger, and a craving for life. The Brotherhood Of The Grape is the third book I’ve read from Fante. So far the man is three for three with all aces. This book is about Henry Molise, a professional writer who was living a comfortable life in Redondo Beach until his brother calls to tell him their elderly parents are getting a divorce. Henry’s father, Nick, is an alcoholic stone mason who never gave up his crown as King Asshole. His mother is a devout catholic who is desperately juggling her husband and sons to salvage anything resembling a normal Italian American family. Mamma mia!
First off, the book is hilarious. The quarreling between the family members is authentic. It’s sure to take everyone back to their childhood days of fighting with their siblings and cousins. The characters have their scars from growing up in a tightknit family which is funny in a dark comedy sort of way. There’s an ample amount of wine flowing to inspire some outrageous scenes. The family dynamic is done superbly. Fante adds the elements of anger, death, resentment, forgiveness, and alcoholism to produce a story that reads bitter sweet. The central theme is that between a proud father and reluctant son who’s grown up. They both know the father’s time is running out, but how do they bridge the gap that has always been there?
I can’t emphasize how much I recommend this book. The funny parts had me laughing out loud, the absurd antics of the father literally made my jaw drop, and the sad parts we’re enough to give me a heavy heart. Fante is a man who writes with a directness that is simple and powerful. The Brotherhood of the Grape is a leisurely with a lot of depth and comedy. I’ll be reviewing the rest of Fante’s collection as I obtain the copies.