cover image LUNCHEONETTE: A Memoir


Steven Sorrentino, . . Regan, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-072892-2

Aspiring actor Sorrentino's plans of making it big in New York are squelched when his father contracts a debilitating illness that paralyzes him from the chest down. Dutifully taking over dad's role as proprietor of Clint's Corner, a New Jersey shore luncheonette, Sorrentino goes from being a 24-year-old gay performer to a firmly closeted, burger-flipping "Jersey Boy." While his loyalty to his Italian-American family is strong, as time passes and his father begins to recover, Sorrentino finds himself increasingly cemented in his new life, watching his ambitions fade as he struggles with his identity and sexuality in a parochial town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Sorrentino does a nice job portraying the diner's quirky cast of characters (including a Polish waitress who swears like a sailor in several languages and regulars like "Half-Cup Harold"), yet despite these amusements, he eventually becomes so caught between family responsibilities and his own dreams that depression sets in. With the help of therapy and the sale of the restaurant, Sorrentino finally overcomes his inertia and helplessness, regains an identity and a life back in New York, celebrating his father's life (as well as mourning his death, 16 years after his paralysis). The grand resolution seems tacked-on, but the book's core struggle is poignant. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Feb. 1)

Forecast: Sorrentino's position as former head of HarperCollins's publicity department should help this otherwise low-profile book get media coverage.