Book review: Five-Finger Discount

Five-Finger Discount:
A Crooked Family History

by

Helene STAPINSKI

255 pages

Published by Random House in 2002

Five-finger Discount

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

   New Authors 2013

where are you reading

50 states –
#3: New Jersey

 

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

rating system

Traveling the US through books, I went to New Jersey with Five-Finger Discount. That was quite an enlightening memoir! I had no idea how life was in the 1970s in New Jersey, in what might have been a rather normal family, coming from Poland.

If the word “memoir” is a warning flag for boring books for you, don’t worry about this one: it is so full of amazing stories, with crimes, murders, and lots of funny, gross details on daily life in tough New Jersey neighborhoods.

That lady has quite a family, with characters knowing all about going around the law, or being too often caught by it! You meet all kind of mafia guys and gangsters.

Corruption and poverty are also part of the work scene, with more incredible stories.

I was also appalled at the pollution descriptions. Warning: do not eat before reading the part about cleaning some old unused and forgotten industrial freezers…

I understand now why this book has been on the Book Club shelf of my library for a long time: it is both so funny and so true, and seems to describe very well a page of Americana one may not always be proud of.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

With deadpan humor and obvious affection, Five-Finger Discount recounts the story of an unforgettable New Jersey family of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers, and mobster-wannabes. In the memoir Mary Karr calls “a page-turner,” Helene Stapinski ingeniously weaves the checkered history of her hometown of Jersey City—a place known for its political corruption and industrial blight—with the tales that have swirled around her relatives for decades. Navigating a childhood of toxic waste and tough love, Stapinski tells an extraordinary tale at once heartbreaking and hysterically funny. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helene Stapinski

Helene Stapinski began her career at her hometown newspaper, The Jersey Journal, and since then has written for The New York Times, New York magazine, and People, among other publications. She received her B.A. in journalism from New York University in 1987 and her M.F.A. from Columbia in 1995. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Her website highlights her 4 books.

You can watch her discussing this book.

REVIEWS BY OTHER BLOGGERS

Crossing Dewey
Goodreads readers

***

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK
IN/ON NEW JERSEY?

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8 thoughts on “Book review: Five-Finger Discount

  1. Pingback: New Authors Reading Challenge 2013 | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: 2013: February wrap-up | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: Reading the States 2013 Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  4. Pingback: Reading the States 2015 Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

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