Excerpt from The Good Mothers by Alex Perry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Good Mothers

The Story of the Three Women Who Took on the World's Most Powerful Mafia

by Alex Perry

The Good Mothers by Alex Perry X
The Good Mothers by Alex Perry
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 352 pages
    Aug 20, 2019, 352 pages

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Kim Kovacs
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Print Excerpt

Lea Garofalo had outclassed Carlo Cosco from the start. Carlo had earned his position with the clans, but Lea was born a mafia princess, a Garofalo from Pagliarelle, daughter of east coast 'Ndrangheta aristocrats. Carlo was as broad and handsome as a bear, but Lea was altogether finer, her natural elegance accentuated by high cheekbones, a slim frame, and long, thick, curly dark hair. Carlo's stuttering grasp of Italian and his sullen, taciturn manner were never more noticeable than when he was with Lea, who spoke with the sophistication of a northerner and the passion of a southerner, laughing, arguing, and crying all in the same five minutes. In any other world, it would have been the natural order of things for Lea to have walked out on Carlo a few years into their marriage and never looked back.

At least Carlo was making an effort not to gloat, thought Lea. He had a friend drop around one hundred euros for the train tickets to Milan. When Lea and Denise pulled into the city's central station, Mussolini's opulent glass-and- marble monument to northern order and power, Carlo himself picked them up in a black Audi and took them to the Hotel Losanna, a cozy backstreet place a block from the Corso Sempione, Milan's Champs-Élysées, and a short walk from their old family apartment on Viale Montello. And for the next four days, Carlo refused even to discuss the past. He didn't mention the 'Ndrangheta or how Lea had broken omertà or the way she almost destroyed everything for which he and his brothers had worked. Instead, Denise said the three of them enjoyed a "quiet and pleasant" mini vacation, the kind of family holiday they'd never had. Milan's Ferrari showrooms and Armani stores were a million miles from the goat pastures of Calabria, and Carlo seemed happy for his wife and daughter to enjoy it. With his coat tugged around his shoulders in the Milanese style, and Lea and Denise in jeans and thick down jackets, the three of them wandered the canals and the polished stone piazzas, eating pizza and cannoli and window-shopping in the nineteenth-century galleria across from Milan's flamboyant Gothic Duomo. Carlo paid for everything: clothes for Denise, dinners for the three of them, coffees and gelatos. Carlo even fixed it for the two women to get their eyebrows done at a beauty salon owned by his friend Massimo. Another time, when Lea was out of hash, Carlo summoned a cousin, Carmine Venturino, and made sure she didn't pay.

It wasn't perfect, of course. Denise was busy nurturing a teenage addiction to cigarettes and an aversion to heavy Italian food. Carlo, seeing his wife and daughter for only the second time in thirteen years and noticing how alike they were, couldn't help but be transported to the day, nineteen years earlier, when sixteen-year- old Lea had eloped with him to Milan. Meanwhile Lea was struggling to hold her nerve. She'd asked Carlo not to tell anyone she was in Milan but already he'd gone ahead and introduced her to Massimo and Carmine—and Carmine, for one, seemed more than just a friend to Carlo. She also had the recurrent feeling that they were being followed.

Lea found herself turning to an old habit. Denise's mother had long needed a joint or two just to get to sleep at night and, as the butts Denise found in their room attested, she was now also smoking steadily through the day. Sleep and peace were good, of course, and a real rarity for Lea. But you had to wonder at the wisdom of getting stoned around Carlo, a mafioso who had spent the last thirteen years chasing her across Italy trying to kill her.

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Excerpted from The Good Mothers by Alex Perry. Copyright © 2018 by Alex Perry. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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