My Father, Fortune-tellers & Me: A Memoir is a powerful and witty coming-of-age story of fate versus free will. As the daughter of southern Italian immigrants joined in an acrimonious arranged marriage, Eufemia Fantetti weathered the devastating consequences of her mother’s treatment-resistant schizophrenia for years before moving to the West Coast to escape the constant turmoil. In her search for meaning beyond a host of ancestral superstitions—malocchio, maledictions and stregheria—she writes, cracks jokes, meets counselors, studies the sky for planetary alignment, consults her trusty tarot deck for guidance and visits her dad’s psychic healer for a prescription for prescience. Fantetti’s story is a darkly hilarious, tender chronicle of family, destiny and resilience.
This memoir rang me like a bell, and I am still vibrating from the tolling. As a first generation Italian Canadian, many of the horrors and comforts in Fantetti’s account resonated with me: vivid, visceral, violent, but also humorous, hopeful and seeking. The character’s actions leap off the page with startlingly authentic dialogue. Each culture has its healthy and unhealthy way of dealing with mental illness, and this is a brutally honest view of the southern Italian’s modus operandi. This story is offered up like a heart torn out of the chest of the teller. There is healing surgery in both the telling and the reading.
Anyone lucky enough to have Italian families in their life knows that they’re just like any other family—only more so. The noble blue-collar Mezzogiorno immigrant is a character reduced to caricature by bootstrap politicians in stump speeches to corporate donors, but he deserves a better portrait: one drawn with a daughter’s love and honesty, as in Eufemia Fantetti’s compelling memoir.
In her memoir Fantetti writes with unflinching honesty and a sharp wit about surviving a suburban Toronto childhood with a dangerously unstable mother and the curse of the malocchio (evil eye) laid upon Eufemia herself in infancy, presaging a life of turmoil. For Eufemia and her beloved father, Michelantonio, fortune-tellers and mysticism seem to offer as much useful advice as medical professionals into how to find happiness after years of violence and abuse. Utterly original and riveting, this book will tear your heart out.