The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace

Farrar. Feb. 2013. c.432p. ISBN 9780374157425. $28. AUTOBIOG
In his memoir, journalist Stille (Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic) ponders the influences of culture and history upon family, personality, and identity. Stille traces the lives of his parents—Italian journalist Ugo Stille and Ugo's Midwestern wife, Elizabeth—from the 1930s through the 1990s. He shows the contrasts in their cultural upbringing and disparate personalities, noting historical and political influences and providing analysis of what creates a family and how these influences shape one's personality. Stille addresses the potential of the literary memoir to become exaggerative, where characters are dramatized and the story's authenticity is essentially eliminated. Stille's book raises questions about self, identity, and motivation, using creative and engaging anecdotes taken from the lives of his parents. Coming from two such different backgrounds, they created a life that was both wholly American and ultimately unique.
VERDICT Readers interested in the effects that culture, history, and family dynamics have on the creation of self will find this book intriguing.
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