The Godmother
September 15, 2022
Book Review

The Godmother

reviewed by Erin Clemence

 

Investigative journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau takes on the often undermined and underestimated roles that women play in the male-dominated Italian mafia.

Focusing her research on Pupetta Maresca, the self-proclaimed “Godmother of the Mafia,” Nadeau explores the dated misogynistic attitudes of Italian police and officials, as well as the stereotypical roles given to females by society. She further explains how female members of the mafia are faced with threats to their lives and the lives of their loved ones, forcing them into complete participation and compliance.

“The Godmother: Murder, Vengeance, and the Bloody Struggle of Mafia Women” is a dangerously realistic look behind the scenes of some of Italy’s most renowned crime families that goes far beyond anything portrayed in North American media. Latza Nadeau’s true crime story is told in several parts, highlighting why and how females become enwrapped within the mafia web and how they survive (Nadeau also discusses those who did not survive, and how they met their fate). Not to be outdone, the misogynistic and out-of-date viewpoint of not only the (male) heads of Mafia families, but also the Italian police and officials, take a starring role. In the world of the Mafia, women are often overlooked, and always underestimated, which works only to aid them in avoiding severe punishment (in most cases).

“Godmother” is an in depth look at the political climate of Italy and its centuries-old patriarchal structure. Nadeau highlights many of the crime families that head the mafia in both Italy and in North America, and there are a lot of characters mentioned, but it is evident that she has done her research. Latza Nadeau identifies Italy as her “adopted homeland”, and it is obvious that she has spent much time there, learning the culture and the language, fully immersing herself in the country to be able to provide as much detail as possible in her writings (ignoring the most present dangers).

The legal system in Italy is touched on in Nadeau’s story, but only to depict how corrupt it is. “Godmother” does not focus on the court proceedings, and instead focuses on illegal practices of the mafia in Italy, and the women who make it all possible. This prevents long pages of legal jargon and speeches, which I appreciated, and allows the reader to learn all the nitty-gritty details, which are the best parts.

It is obvious that Nadeau literally took her life into her hands to present the world with “Godmother”, facing danger home and abroad. The story itself is a creative examination of a culture that most people are only vaguely familiar with through (poor) representations on their screens. “Godmother” is a completely immersive, educational experience and Nadeau manages to accrue a type of sympathy for these women, and makes them relatable. “Godmother” is true-crime at its finest.

The Godmother available at:

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