cover image Revere Beach Boulevard

Revere Beach Boulevard

Roland Merullo. Henry Holt & Company, $23 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6005-8

Suffocating secrets prey upon family love and loyalty in this sympathetically drawn, though ultimately lumbering first volume of a projected Revere Beach Trilogy. Over the course of one week, Merullo (Leaving Losapos) focuses on the Imbesalacqua family and its life among the Italian-Americans of Boston's North End. Vito, who came to America in 1936, believed in hard work, religion, frugality, honesty and the sanctity of the family, but he has lived to see most of his dreams compromised and unfulfilled. His wife, Lucy, is now dying, and Vito still frets over his decades-old infidelity to her. Peter, their disappointing son, grapples with his failing real estate business and a gambling addiction. He owes a debt of life-threatening proportions to a mob-connected loan shark, Eddie Crevine, who is being investigated by Vito's daughter, Joanna, a famous TV news anchorwoman with secrets of her own. Alfonse Romano, a Revere police captain, also battles some private demons as he tries to help the family save Peter from himself. The author was raised in Revere and clearly possesses a heartfelt awareness of the unique rhythms of its Italian-American community. Vito, in particular, is a richly drawn character, balancing wisdom with naivete while resisting stereotype. The other first-person narrators (of which there are many) are less distinctive, though Peter's gambling sequences are deftly handled. Unfortunately, Merullo fails in his attempt to negotiate a treacherous middle ground between the literary and suspense novel forms. The dramatic elements are merely commonplace, thus sabotaging any chance for a surprise denouement. The result is a high-stakes family melodrama with a curiously small payoff. Editor, Tracy Brown; agent, Cynthia Cannell Literary Agency. (Sept.)