I'm sorry I took so long to review this, but I tried to go as in-depth as time allowed. This chapter explores the concept of a family is formed from stories that are stitched together over time. The narrator turns sixteen after a simple childhood and discovers his family is not all that it seems. Not only does he learn he is adopted, but he also learns that he is heir to a large fortune and a noble title, and that his "Papi" and Uncles are fountains of family history, strife with their own beginnings and endings.
Please keep in mind that this review is purely personal opinion, with the occasional grammatical correction. I do not intend to offend, only to help! Critiques follow...
- I have two critiques for the following sentence; "My uncles consisted of Theodore, who was an artist; Dr. Francis, who still delivered babies up at St. Paul’s Hospital, and Dylan, who was a retired WWII pilot." First, I believe you need a second semi-colon after "hospital" so that "and Dylan" is separated from the other two brothers. Second, to cut down on wordiness, I suggest removing the first and second "who" for each description of the brother's occupation so that the sentence would read; "My uncles consisted of Theodore, an artist; Dr. Francis, who still delivered babies up at St. Paul’s Hospital, and Dylan, a retired WWII pilot."
- "Their children kept multiplying[ied] like rabbits." The tense here read strangely when mixed in with the other past-tense descriptions in this paragraph, so I suggest switching it to a firm past tense, and then maybe extending the sentence with a second half of deeper explanation since that one line is a bit vague.
Ex. "Their children multiplied like rabbits: I was just another head in the crowd. (Or something like that.)
- In the following sentence, "This was how I was raised - a boring life...," you have repeated a phrase from earlier in the passage. Thus, this phrase is redundant, and the message may hold more weight if the phrase is altered or rephrased. (Also, the reader's definition of “boring” may vary, so try to specify more to your point, maybe the character’s life was “simple,” “anticlimactic,” or “uneventful.” Keep in mind “normal” is also relative, so careful with that one too. )
- “On stormy nights, we would sit in the parlor, and he would turn the crank on the vintage machine and we would listen to the records.” This sentence is very repetitive. I suggest either cutting it in two, removing part of it, and condensing.
- “On stormy nights, we would sit in the parlor[.] He would turn the crank on the vintage machine and together, we would listen to the records [, their ancient melodies creaking in rhythm with the house’s shifting in the wind.]” I added a filler phrase for the end because a nice dash of imagery may pull this paragraph together nicely.
- “I’ve had this Victrola since 1910! Bought it with earnings from my first job at Warden’s Department Store on the square, and I will listen to it until the day I die.” It seemed odd that these two words were not in contraction form. “Papi” has been speaking in a lower level of speech, and because he has already used a contraction, I suggest keeping with his sentence format and adding one here.
- Just a fact check as I’m not sure how historically accurate you intend to be, but were “Backstage Passes” available in the ’60s, more specifically 1966? I did a brief search but found nothing to aid me, seeing passes available only around the ’70s and ’80s. I just wanted to bring this up, since they may actually be accurate for the time, or just an artistic choice, I wasn’t sure of either possibility, but nevertheless, it's up to you whether to include or not, depending on which direction you are taking the narrative.
- Replace the bolded comma in this phrase with a semicolon to better pause between the two connected phrases; “ After that moment, I knew they were keeping a secret from me[,] I would learn it when I turned sixteen.”
- There is a continuity error in the line “I also knew Papi and his uncles had money….” Aren’t the “Uncles” Papi’s brothers? I thought they were the narrator's uncles?
- In the sentence, “Unfortunately, it was more heart-wrenching than a mysterious amount of money,” the logic isn’t quite following through. The first part, “it was more heart-wrenching” is fine, but when I read the second part, I didn’t quite see how a “mysterious amount of money” was meant to imply an opposition or juxtaposition to the original sentiment. Here’s what I was thinking;
- Ex. “Unfortunately, it was more heart-wrenching than a simple inheritance.” Here, we have something that is emotionally complex juxtaposed with something mundane or common, giving an appropriate emotional balance between both sides of the phrase.
- The beginning of the following paragraph; “My life changed a month ago, and I haven’t spoken to Papi since we returned from Sicily. Early that morning, while everyone attended church…” was very confusing timeline-wise. When is a month ago in relation to the narrator’s return from Sicily? Did the narrator return a month ago? Did his life change before, during, or after the visit to Sicily? Finally, when was this “morning” the narrator references? Is it the morning after his return, a morning a month ago, or the morning after he realized his life had changed? The reader just needs some more context and transition phrases.
- I believe it’s “Filling station” not “filing station.” (I’m referencing a phrase in paragraph 8.)
- Would “downside” be a better term to use for the following sentence, “The only bad thing was the neighbors who lived in the area.” “Bad thing” is very vague, and another term will help clarify the meaning of the sentence.
- The ending phrase in the line, “That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I heard heavy footsteps emerging from the grass, and onto the pier,” doesn’t really make sense. I recommend removing “and onto the pier” and giving it its own sentence ("The pier vibrated with the approaching footsteps"- or something like that) and then editing “emerging” down to “emerge” to fit with the tense of the line.
- I suggest removing the bolded section for clarity. “When he fully recovered from the surgery was when he began smoking.”
- The adverb in the highlighted sentence is unnecessary, as the gesture itself already connotes childlike defiance. I also suggest removing the “...that I had been found,” since that phrase is also redundant. “I responded by childishly crossing my arms over my chest and glaring out into the water in annoyance that I had been found.”
- Just a typo here; “["]No Trespassing["] signs littered the grounds w[h]ere at one time there were colorful advertisements announcing circuses, horseback riding, canoe rentals, dancing.” I also suggest adding quotation marks around “No Trespassing.”
- In the paragraph spoken by the narrator, it is not immediately apparent that the narrator is the one speaking; "“Does your story start when you were sixteen?” I asked as I turned to gather my shoes.
“For the first sixteen years of my life, I was boring old Adrian Tuscano...My real parents died in a California earthquake when I was a toddler!” Maybe go back and add an extra tag after he gathers his shoes.
- I also suggest that this paragraph be condensed a little bit, as there are parts where the dialogue is unnatural - too flowery for the narrator and the moment. One part in particular - “Papi takes me back to the hotel with me in stunned silence, and informs me…” is especially awkward coming from the narrator. I suggest rewriting this paragraph as a little simpler, with more breaks in the format so that the emotions of the narrator can keep up with the rate of the storytelling. The narrator only has three breaks within his frustrated explanation for his emotions to come across, and on the third, he cries! All in all, his emotional development feels a little rushed here and I suggest slowing down a tad.
- The fact that the mother wrote her story down in “third-person” does not seem like a relevant detail to the plot, and I suggest removing it. “She was once a school teacher, and actually wrote down her version of the story in the third person, which we found upon her passing.” The same goes for the line; “Why she wrote it down in the third person is a mystery.”
- The suggestion about rushing emotions is also relevant a little farther down in the line, “I laughed, as I stood up and reached down to help Uncle Theodore..” That the narrator was just crying and now is laughing feels a little unnatural and forced. Maybe the narrator “chuckles weakly, as he swipes tears from his face” instead.
- There are some unnecessary commas here; “Catrina would sit me on her lap[,] and brush my hair, as I watched Saturday Morning Cartoons”
- The commas are strange here as well. “She smelled heavenly[,] like, lilac flowers, and rosewater soap.”
- This comma should be a period; “I couldn’t have been more than five-years-old,[.]”
- Replace “as” with “and” for a more complete phrase. “Closing my eyes, I settled back, as Uncle Theodore began his story.”
Overall, this chapter had a lot of moving parts and characters which made it difficult to follow at times. Often, I was confused about who one character was, and their relation to another character, and why they were relevant to the plot of the story. Because of this, there were times when I was forced to go back a re-read a paragraph. Thus, I suggest going back through and eliminating some of the sections where brand new characters who are discussed for only a few sentences appear, and remove them. In addition, maybe simplify parts of the story and the timeline. I realize that this is the first chapter of a longer narrative, and so the plot and characters may seem incomplete, but so much is happening in this chapter that pulling some of the character introductions back a few chapters will really help space out the plot and help the reader digest. Fortunately, cutting down the chapter is the easy part - you have already done all the work for character and plot creation and just need a little trimming!
Though this review may sound like a downer, a lot of the corrections were just little typos and inconsistency errors. I found the chapter unique and interesting, and can really see this story flourishing with a bit of revision! I look forward to pursuing the rest of this story and finding out where it goes!
Hopefully, this review was helpful. If there were any parts that were unclear, or if I interpreted something incorrectly, please feel free to reach out and prompt a discussion! I would love to help in any way I can!