Contend Earnestly: For the Sins of My Father

Monday, January 19, 2009

For the Sins of My Father

I found this book while searching around on and for some reason, probably because of the "biblical" title, it caught my eye. As I picked up the book and started to read, the first thing I noticed was the fact that the author, Albert DeMeo, was trying to convey something that I figured was going to be a theme throughout the book, which was family is everything.

Albert DeMeo, the author, is the son of notorious killer Roy DeMeo from the Gambino Crime Family in New York City. The story starts by showing the author in his naive youthfulness around the ages of 5 and 6 years old. But then he started to notice that he was different when he got odd stares and glances from other cousins as they watched a mob movie. It seemed as he was the butt of a joke without knowing it. DeMeo tells of his early life learning that he had a lot of "uncles" that weren't kin to him and that were spread throughout the city, as he watched his dad collect envelopes and given much respect wherever they went. Not a normal respect, but a suspicious one.

As the story unfolds, DeMeo tells of his life of becoming a young wiseguy and the rise of his father as he becomes a capo in the Gambino Crime Family. The story mainly takes place in the 70's and early 80's and is very detailed on many accounts of the day to day life of his father "passing down the business." It feels like a confession of sorts in story form. I will say that DeMeo does not seem to hold anything back about his dad. He tells of his dad's car theft ring that was the largest in New York City, loan sharking, filthy prostitution and sex shop business and the impact that it had on Albert as he watched this filthy business unfold. I was surprised at how even one that had witnessed many things in his life, still found the sex shops and theatres that his dad owned and did business with as polluted filth.

Behind all this, the reader finds a deep relationship between father and son. It was actually one that was very well described and one that was also very troubling. Although Roy DeMeo took care of his family in one sense, he put them in harms way with the work that he did and the absent nights away as he went on killing sprees and took care of other business. Yet, I found myself fond of the relationship that Roy DeMeo had with his family and especially his only son.

What I find most sad is the deep impact that this played on Albert throughout his life. Although he was never deeply involved within the crime family, the parts he knew and lived made much of an impact until even now. Through all this, even in the deepest despair, he never goes to where he should have gone a long time ago. To Christ. Albert speaks of his mom sending him to confirmation classes in the Catholic church because she wanted him to have good morals and learn about God. But, this saddens me to think that the reason to send someone to church was merely to learn to be "good" instead of going to find Christ. This was obvious as Albert continued to look to himself in despair, without hope and even using Scriptures in the book as quotes that were obviously meaningless as he uses these alongside quotes from Machiavelli and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

The only Scripture that he uses that speaks volumes is the one that adorns the front of the book as the title.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exodus 20:5

The book is actually very well done and speaks volume to the insides of the mob and the families that are affected. I pray for Albert DeMeo and hope that the verses that he uses in his book would have more of an impact than mere recitations for chapter headings. Albert seems to be very honest with his life and his father's life that he lead. I pray that Albert can forgive himself and look to the cross of Christ and know that his sins have truly been paid for. In the end, if one wants an honest description of mob life, I would highly recommend this read as it shows all parts, not just the glamorized ones. Highly Recommended (with caution, adult material in parts)


Steve said...

Hi Seth. My wife and I recently watchced "The Godfather" movies. They hit us with a similar force, and with the same theme, that you speak of regarding this book.

Mario Puzo portrayed the mafia as strongly male-led, strongly devoted to family and loyalty, and deeply religious. These values did not produce righteousness; rather they produced violence and moral destruction.

In the third Godfather movie, Michael Corleone (the Godfather) meets with a Bishop in Rome, who ultimately becomes Pope. The Bishop speaks to Michael of those who live in the shadow of the church, and yet have nothing of Christ. He picked up a stone from a pool of water, broke the stone apart and showed it to Michael. The water, of course, has not penetrated the stone. One can live surrounded by Christianity and remain impervious to Christ, like the stone to water. The fruit of righteousness comes not from the trappings of good works, because they will always be corrupted and corruptible.

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