Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Mob Daughter by Karen Gravano

First off, please don't forget to check out The Great Gatsby Read Along I'm hosting, starting on Wednesday the 10th.  Even if you can't start on the 10th, I think the easy 40 pages a week shouldn't be too hard to jump in when you can. I'll be posting some initial information on Wednesday to get us started, and then have some questions to consider.  Please come join in! 

Now, let me take a pretty odd segue here with a review on an autobiography about the mob.  Yes. Odd.  You can't tell me you don't have strange interests that intermingle from time to time.  :)

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Karen Gravano is the daughter of Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, once one of the mafia's most feared hit men. With nineteen confessed murders, the former Gambino Crime Family underboss—and John Gotti’s right-hand man—is the highest ranking gangster ever to turn State’s evidence and testify against members of his high-profile crime family.

But to Karen, Sammy Gravano was a sometimes elusive but always loving father figure.  He was ever-present at the head of the dinner table.  He made a living running a construction firm and several nightclubs.  He stayed out late, and sometimes he didn’t come home at all.  He hosted “secret” meetings at their house, and had countless whispered conversations with “business associates.” By the age of twelve, Karen knew he was a gangster.  And as she grew up, while her peers worried about clothes and schoolwork, she was coming face-to-face with crime and murder.  Gravano was nineteen years old when her father turned his back on the mob and cooperated with the Feds.  The fabric of her family was ripped apart, and they were instantly rejected by the communities they grew up in.

This is the story of a daughter’s struggle to reconcile the image of her loving father with that of a murdering Mafioso, and how, in healing the rift between the two, she was able to forge a new life."

Review:  I'll readily admit that I've watched Mob Wives on VH1 since it first came out, thanks to a curiosity about the wives and children of former mobsters.  I've read a lot of books about the mob and am interested in the affects it has on the communities and families that it plays out among.  In Mob Daughter, Karen Gravano outlines the life she grew up in, not completely realizing that her father was a major hit man for the mafia.  Gravano recognizes little things that maybe didn't make sense about her childhood, things that other kids might not have had to worry about or live through.  As part of the Gambino Crime Family, Gravano's father was neck deep with what seemed like no way out, and from his daughter's perspective, he was just a man trying to provide for his family.

I am always intrigued by the mob.  After a few other books I've read about the mafia, I don't really have the sense that there is much honor in it at all, as we've been told.  What is meant to protect neighborhoods and families really just terrorized them and destroyed those in its way.  The real desire--money--was all they really cared about. I think that Gravano's story is pretty interesting, since she got into a life of crime herself and has struggled to come to terms with her father's role in the mob and his role in coming out against the mob (oddly feeling sorry or connected to both sides).  Her bias is obviously toward her father as a misunderstood and honorable guy at heart, but as readers we can't help but realize that he has committed some pretty serious crimes.  

As far as mob stories go, I do think this adds another perspective to it all.  It is definitely told with bias and sympathy for the criminal, but I think we get that and can entertain why she might feel that way.  This wasn't my favorite piece of non-fiction on this subject, nor the most comprehensive, but it does have a bit of that human interest element to it that makes it really compelling.  

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the book.


  1. Did you ever see Married to the Mob, that movie with Michelle Pfeiffer? I have an odd fondness for that movie.

    1. You know, I don't think so. That's odd though, since I feel like I've read or watched a million different "mob" themed books and movies. :) I'll have to check & see if it's on Amazon Prime to view.