I confess: As a former New Jerseyan who once knew a mobster or two, I am fascinated by true-life accounts of the world of organized crime. In that context, though, a "true" account is simply one that rings true. You can't expect it to be thorough and factual when it comes to the details; of necessity, a book that's even remotely related to the mob will be riddled with holes.
That's helpful to remember when reading THIS THING OF OURS. It's also helpful to remember that the book is about the tenacity of an unwavering faith and how that tenacity enabled one couple to hold on to their marriage, against all odds.
When Camille and Michael Franzese married in 1985, Cammy could not have imagined what lay ahead. Michael, a handsome movie producer, had doted on her, giving her whatever she wanted from what appeared to be an endless stream of wealth --- and giving her a beautiful baby daughter as well.
"[T]he author redeems the book in her frank and authentic telling of the story of a marriage that should never have survived --- but did."
But little more than a year after their wedding, their life as a couple started to unravel when federal agents appeared at their door to arrest Michael on racketeering charges. "I know it's hard to believe," Cammy writes, "but I was never aware of his connection with organized crime." That will be hard for some people to believe, but Cammy was young and somewhat starry-eyed, and mobsters are known for being protective of their wives; the less they know, the better. Still, Michael's father, Sonny Franzese, was a powerful member of the Colombo crime family, and his name was widely known in the New York metropolitan area. Cammy, however, was from California.
Cammy's husband would eventually serve two four-year terms in federal prison, leaving Cammy to create a life for herself as a single mother, even though she was married. This was not exactly a prescription for a long-lasting, healthy marriage, especially given the humiliation and abuse she had to endure from prison officials and an unforgiving public.
To her credit, Cammy, who had become a Christian before she met Michael, owns up to the poor choice she made in marrying a man who did not share her faith. But she was determined to live out that choice. With her mother's faithfulness to her own faithless husband as a model, Cammy stayed with Michael and developed a deeper relationship with God in the process. Eventually, Michael also became a Christian.
THIS THING OF OURS is at heart a story of forgiveness and redemption. It's a fairly quick read, thanks to Cammy's conversational tone, but one element that slows it down is the confusing chronology; at times, it's difficult to keep track of what is going on when. In addition, the book seems to assume that readers are already familiar with Michael's story, which he wrote about in his own book in the 1990s. A stronger editorial hand would have helped the book immensely. Ultimately, though, the author redeems the book in her frank and authentic telling of the story of a marriage that should never have survived --- but did.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 2, 2012