Somewhere in
the depths of solitude,
beyond wilderness and freedom,
lay the trap of madness.”  Edward Abbey

The Family Man, Nick Molinaro, well-respected, a sought after labor attorney, the perfect husband, father and son; loving and passionate toward his family, his uncles, aunts, brother. He was everything a woman could ask for and Gia, his wife, loved him unconditionally.

But there was another side to his nature. He was also a cold-blooded murderer who enjoyed watching his victims die. When a friend of Nick’s, Big Jim, kills a rapist who was a threat to Gia, he regretted not being able to do the killing himself and asked Big Jim to do it. After the murder when they met, the first question he asked Big Jim. “Tell me Jim, what did his face look like?”

Was Nick just beyond the realm of madness? Not at all. For Nick Molinaro wasn’t any of these specific traits by themselves. He was a passionate, all-consuming combination of all the traits, none of them dominating the other. And this was what made him so dangerous. He could blend into any situation with ease and his environment dictated which personality had to over-ride the others. He was an expert at it. Only his Uncle Sal knew the evil cold blooded murderer that lurked just below the surface. In fact, he encouraged his nephew in the art of revenge, of rectifying the wrong and usually the price their victims paid, was with their life. Uncle Sal nurtured Nick and saw in his nephew the young Sal that he used to be in Sicily. He believed in revenge and neither men could rest till they completed the act.

And neither man ever had any regrets of what he had done. When a neighbor, an old man, suffering from senility, recognized Nick as the murderer of Frank Miller (Nick’s Dad) and went to their house accusing Nick of the murder, Uncle Sal conveniently and calmly ran over him with his car as the old man was shoveling snow. Then, without remorse, he drove on to complete his errand to buy a loaf of bread. That easily done.

Nick was equally comfortable in killing a man. He was encouraged by Uncle Sal, who saw in him the son he never had. He instilled into Nick his beliefs and strove to make an alter ego of himself.

“Nick’s face showed no emotions. In situations like this that was when he was the most dangerous. He would never forget the way Toby spoke to him. Nick was not some psychopath, but he was vindictive and a bit narcissistic. He loved to read his name in the newspapers, he loved to be in charge, and he bathed in notorieties, just as long it had nothing to do with crime. The things he did were to protect himself and his wife; in fact he would protect any member of his family. With Toby Glassman, Nick took his words personally, as an insult and a direct slur toward his father, his mother, his wife, his son. Now, it was a question of honor.”

He firmly believed it to be so. Thus, it was justified.

The only person intelligent or insightful enough to scrutinize Nick and question him, even twenty years after the Frank Miller killing, was his wife Gia. Being a psychiatrist, and even with her unconditional love for Nick, every so often, something in the deepest valleys of her brilliant mind forced her to one more time ask her husband, if he had anything to do with the killing. And each time, Nick, in spite of his passionate love for and his everlasting loyalty to Gia, could look her straight in the eye and deny any such act. Did Gia believe him and if she did was it because she didn’t want to hear the suspected truth? Or did Nick, with his infinite charm and honest love for her convince her otherwise. Perhaps in these moments of denial, he actually saw himself as the only Nick, the family man, who belonged in their happy life and matrimonial bed. Perhaps the young Nick, the one who pulled the trigger wasn’t allowed to enter the family circle. Like the snake that sheds its skin, Nick left his evil traits behind, in a realm of his mind that neither belonged to his home life nor his professional life. Again, was he beyond “the trap of madness?” But whichever side of Nick dominated, one thing was certain and that was his love for Gia. Family man or cold-blooded murderer, he loved his wife, son and extended family.

Nick beach (1)However, on reading the book, this enigma of Nick’s character, even though it is the over-riding theme in the book, is enhanced by other aspects that make this third novel in the “Summer Series” an interesting and enjoyable read. The author, Nick Gallicchio, warmly details the Italian intimacy of family life. During the delicious dinners they enjoy together, they discuss various topics, from politics, to history to the Vietnam War, when the first book began. The reader gets a rich description of what life and politics were in the 1980’s. And with Gia and Nick’s second honeymoon to Pompeii, we get a romantic and detailed lesson in history.

Furthermore, we also get a well-educated look at how unions operated in the 80’s: grievances, negotiations, arbitrations are part of Nick’s world at the office and he excelled at his profession.

The characters were vivid and well-developed, and the plot moves on at a fast pace sweeping us toward an unsuspecting and tragic ending.

My only regret was that Uncle Sal hadn’t shared his delicious recipes with us. However, if you want to ask the author, Nick Gallicchio, for some of the recipes in the book, I’m sure he would share.

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