Serendipity by Louis Shaffer tells the story of four generations of women from an Italian family in New Haven. The book begins with the youngest of the set, Carrie Manning, just after the funeral of her mother Rose. The Manning family led a long legacy in New York, one that Carrie soon begins to uncover as she starts to find out more about her mother’s life. Here is the short family bio: Carrie Manning is the daughter of Rose Manning. Rose Manning made a name for herself in New York for her philanthropic charities and work with homeless shelters. Although Rose is the famous daughter of Broadway legend Lu Lawson and wife to hit musical writer Bobby Manning, Rose chose to abandon the lux life and pursue a more humble road after Bobby’s death, taking Carrie with her.
Carrie grew up sheilded from her mother’s past, and her grandmother’s fame and fortune. Carrie felt like a fraud, always putting on the smiling face for the media as the selfish daughter. Carrie hated each moment of her childhood, of her mother’s work with the shelters because it took Rose away from her. Carrie knew so little about her mother in death only because she was too afraid to ask questios during her life. One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Carrie had to sneak off to the local library just to find answers to questions that she couldn’t ask her mother about their family. For the first time in her life, Carrie saw photos of her father and grandmother, realizing just what she had lost as a result of her mother. As Carrie tries to cope with the loss of her mother, she goes on an investigation to learn more about her mother’s childhood, starting first with Uncle Paulie in Lu’s hometown. Uncle Paulie tells the story of Mifalda, Carrie’s great-grandmother, and soon opens up the flood-gates to an old world history of Carrie’s lineage.
The four different women of this family really made the story. You could see how certain traits skipped a generation. What really amazed me was seeing how these traits developed. It was fantastic learning about each of these women, from their childhood to their adult years, and being able to see myself in their words, actions and perdicaments. The “wild blood” that ran through Mifalda’s veins was passed on to the next generation and you could see how strong all four women were, even in their most vulnerable days.
I finished this book in a couple days, I couldn’t wait to read more. I loved learning about Lu, her scenes were some of my favorites. Serendipity is an absolutely lovely story for anyone that loves these types of family sagas and the wonderful way that Shaffer weaved the past and present together to tell an amazing tale of this Italian family. If you think you’ll like this book, I would also recommend If You Eat You Never Die by Tony Romano and The Island of Divine Music by John Addiego.
FINAL GRADE: ASerendipity by Louis Shaffer Ballantine Books, 2009 ISBN 0345502094 327 pages