In his memoir, the son of Italian immigrant parents details a life of adversity complicated by his relationship with a formidable mother.
Growing up in 1970’s-80’s Canada surrounded by his extended Italian family, Aversa is an energetic, impulsive boy who delights in pranks, fighting, stealing and rule-breaking, leading to school strappings followed by beatings by his mother. While his home environment is also filled with generosity and a loving, patient father, his mother’s hand leaves lifelong physical and emotional scars. “She had finally broken me. The feeling of joy left me and seemed to never return,” recalls Aversa.
To temper Aversa’s unruly behavior, his mother sends him to work as a tomato picker, and later as a bus boy. Still, he pushes the envelope, driving recklessly and bar hopping with fake IDs. But when mugged at gunpoint, followed by news of his mother’s pancreatic tumor, Domenic realizes that he needs to reform for his mother’s sake and “focus on getting into a great university.”
Aversa eventually goes to law school, and after attending the Moscow Institute of International Affairs, starts a risky venture in the former Soviet Union, rubbing elbows with members of the Russian underworld. He later faces emerging blindness, a series of car accidents, and divorce, retreating to Mongolia and later seeking solace in a Benedictine monastery, followed by volunteer work in Haiti.
The book is a fast-paced, intense, and colorful read detailing transformative adventures and experiences. The larger-than-life narrative is punctuated with mother-son dialogue that’s penetrating, satirical, and at times provides comic relief to the serious tone. When inept doctors repeatedly leave his mother near death, Dom strong-arms the broken healthcare system. Their combined fortitude is inspiring, as is Aversa’s ability to “survive regardless of whatever giant I might confront.”
Ultimately, readers will find his story compelling and instructive in the way it redefines life’s challenges as boundless opportunities for growth.