Josephine Gattuso Hendin captures the New York Italian immigrant scene with startling precision, bringing to life the intricate web of a community's everyday transactions and exploring the multifaceted father-daughter relationship at the heart of the Italian American family. A coming-of-age novel that is both wryly funny and achingly sad, The Right Thing to Do burns with conflicting desires.
Our for a stroll in his Queens neighborhood, Sicilian-born Nino Giardello glimpses his daughter, ambitious twenty-year-old Gina, heading for the subway. Silently, he follows her to Manhattan and watches, outraged, as she walks into the arms of a golden-haired stranger. The incident confirms Nino's worst suspicions about his decidely American daughter. It is also a challenge to Nino's power as capofamiglia, a disruption to his ideas about family life, and an insult to his heritage. In a struggle that exceeds all boundaries, including death, father and daughter will engage in a conflict of generations that is likewise a conflict of cultures.
Nino and Gina illuminate the common experience of first- and second-generation immigrants as they grapple with a complex and profound dilemma: what is the right thing to do when the terms of "right" are unclear, when you are contending with two cultures, two generations, two sexes, each with its own intensely defined needs and ethical system? In the perfectly rendered rhythms of Italian America speech, Hendin's characters banter and argue their way toward an imperfect resolution. Simple rituals-wakes and funerals, visits and dinners-become highly charged events as familial bonds and personal duty are permeated bu the long-standing tensions that exist between cultures. Hendin presents an identical dilemma for the reader: where no one character is obviously right, how can we distinguish heroes from villians?