Written By: Lorenzo Carcaterra
Published By: Ballantine Books
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
I recently was offered the opportunity to check out an advanced copy of Three Dreamers by Lorenzo Carcaterra. I’ve read many of Carcaterra’s books, fiction and non-fiction, and enjoyed them all, so of course, I accepted the offer.
Three Dreamers is a memoir of sorts. It’s an ode to the three women who had the most influence in Carcaterra’s life – his grandmother, his mother and his wife. For those of you who know nothing about Lorenzo Carcaterra, life was not always kind to the author. As a young boy, he lived in a volatile household rife with verbal and physical abuse. His father had killed his first wife and was almost equally intent on killing his second wife. When he wasn’t beating on her, he was gambling away what little money he earned, leading to more arguments and more physical abuse.
As a teenager, Lorenzo was sent to spend the summer with his Italian grandmother. Nonna Maria gave him a sense of stability and life in Italy offered him a sense of what home life should be like with no stress and no angry words or fists. In addition to the love and kindness he experienced with his grandmother, Lorenzo learned just what kind of woman Nonna Maria really was. During World War II, Nonna Maria was a driving force on the island of Ischia, showing strength and fortitude while making daily trips for food and supplies in Nazi-occupied territory. She lost people close to her, but never turned bitter and always showed a strength that made her a pillar in her community.
Lorenzo did not have the same relationship with his mother Raffaela. Though he confesses that he loves the woman, theirs was a relationship filled with anger, resentment, and regret. Raffaela was tricked into marriage with Lorenzo’s father. World War II left Raffaela a widow with a young boy to take care of and her father’s side of the family matched her to an American. It was only when she moved to America that she learned the mistake she had made. Her new husband was a drinker, a gambler and physically abusive. She would later learn that he killed his first wife when she threatened to leave him. When Lorenzo was born, she felt trapped. Her oldest son had to move away to be safe from his stepfather’s tirades and all she ever saw when she looked at Lorenzo was the trap she could never get out of. And yet, it was his mother who made him determined to make something of his life.
Lorenzo met his wife Susan while working at the Daily News. She was the first person who wasn’t family who believed in his dream of becoming a writer. Throughout their marriage she pushed him to tell the stories he had within him to tell. She always believed in him and stood by him through it all, even while struggling with her own demon – cancer. Before she died, she made Lorenzo promise her one thing – that he would keep writing.
Three Dreamers is a beautiful tale of how three very different women shaped Lorenzo Carcaterra into the man and the author he is today. Nonna Maria showed him strength and love and the gift of storytelling. Raffaela helped nurture that stubborn streak and his anger at his mother fed his desire to better himself. Susan nurtured the writer inside while giving him the loving family he had always hoped for. Lorenzo’s gift for storytelling allows you to see everything vividly through his eyes. His descriptiveness makes the scenes in the book come alive and his love for each woman will leave you looking for a tissue box in the end. A great addition to Carcaterra’s nonfiction work!