Never Tell Our Business To Strangers: A Memoir by Jennifer Mascia
As a parent, I often think about how differently children see the events happening around them. Sometimes they see the sweet details we overlook, sometimes they miss the bigger picture – for better or for worse. I know that looking back on my own childhood, I wonder sometimes about the dots that I failed to connect and the back stories of the people I grew up with.
Author Jennifer Mascia is a nightside news assistant at the NY Times Metro Desk. She’s also the daughter of Johnny and Eleanor Mascia who married after Johnny served twelve years in prison for murder – both had been married before. After violating his parole, Johnny spent several months in jail again when their daughter, Jennifer, was five years old – but the reasons for his first stint in jail and the details of their past lives were not revealed to Jennifer for a long time.
I was five when the FBI came for my father. When they arrived, agents cuffed my father and took him away. I turned to my mom’s boss, also a family friend of ours, and asked him, “Jesse, are they arresting my Daddy?” “No, honey,” Jesse replied, kneeling down next to me. “It’s not real. They’re making a movie.”
It does sound like a movie – a plot you’d think sounded so intense and crazy it could only be scripted – but the sordid past of Johnny and Eleanor is also the story of Jennifer’s life and she spent her life uncovering, often questioning the truth behind the explanations she was given – which often deserved questioning as she would come to find as everyone seemed to determined to protect her from the truth at all costs – or perhaps to protect themselves from the truth, worried she might not love them if she knew everything. But her inquisitive nature always begged her to learn more.
So down, down the rabbit hole she went – after a childhood on the lam, a life of maxing out credit cards and evading the law, Jennifer started to question a life she’d previously assumed was normal and she found half siblings, secrets, past loves, indiscretions, lies, betrayal, shocking offenses, drug addiction, tax evasion, and on and on. The story of her parent’s marriage and lives before meeting is a long one, with a lot of factors that added up to the story of Jennifer’s life. But the more she learned about her parent’s past, the more she loved them for better and for worse. Though sometimes disappointed in their choices, it never made her love them less – just more honestly.
I was surprised at how often I related to this story – despite all of the crazy details of the Mascia family past, there was also always a real family at the root of it all. Parents who loved each other but weren’t perfect, an inquisitive child who made her share of mistakes, too. The fear that we might grow up to repeat our parents mistakes and the comfort in knowing we’ll inherit their good qualities, too. The scary moments of stepping out of the lives of our childhood and into adulthood – breaking away from our parents to become our own person.
I am always fascinated by the back stories of the things we hear in the news – how did they get to that point, I find myself asking and this book delivered a ton of that and a very in depth look at family and love and loss. The hardest chapters for me were the detailed descriptions of her parents’ struggles with cancer and ultimate deaths – as I’m sure they were the hardest parts for the author to write. Sometimes I found myself thinking, “why am I reading this?” but I found I couldn’t put it down even in the hardest times, which I think is quite possibly how the author must have felt when seeking out the answers to her questions about her parents’ past. For better or for worse, she needed to know the whole truth of it in order to make peace with the whole story.
It was never an easy read by any means, but one I definitely feel better for having read and would recommend to anyone. You will laugh, you will likely cry – you might consider putting it down once or twice, thinking, “Do I really want to know more?” only to answer with a resounding YES.
You can find out more about Jennifer Mascia and her memoir at www.jennifermascia.com.
Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned book for review purpose but was not monetarily compensated in any way. Thanks to Ballantine/Random House for this review and giveaway opportunity.