by Greg Clary
A new novel by a Sleepy Hollow writer highlights the Hudson Valley as the setting for a suburban woman’s rebirth after a nasty divorce.
For 25-year resident Rebecca Chianese, the local streets are as familiar now as those of her Brooklyn youth, and her book Mercy easily captures the people and experiences of each.
“Walking along the Hudson River is where most of my characters come to life,” Chianese said. “Then they boss me around until I tell their stories.”
Chianese, married to Anthony Scarpati for over 30 years, is involved in everything from The Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns to welcoming newcomers annually at a gathering in her Sleepy Hollow Manor home.
A graduate of the fiction-writing program at Sarah Lawrence College, Chianese earned a living for years as a social worker, but still found time while raising a family to write two screenplays, Daffodil Hill and Waltzing with My Father, which were accepted into the Hudson Valley Reading Series.
And fans of the HBO’s legendary Mafia series The Sopranos will be familiar with her father, Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior for six seasons.
Her plays, The Session and That’s Life were both produced off-Broadway in New York City.
Mercy is her first novel, published in May, and, given recent readers’ comments, it will soon be her most popular work.
“I was cussing Rebecca the first night I read her book,” joked Annie Reilly, well-known waitress at Bellas Restaurant on Broadway. “I couldn’t put the book down when I should have been going to sleep.”
Mercy is the story of Carly Manning, a 49-year-old woman searching for her own power and persona through her talent as a painter, after years of putting her creative work off to take care of her husband and children.
The book is a powerful, gripping story that mixes a wry dose of humor and fun into stormy family encounters with a drug-addicted brother, a famous father, and friends who change with her new new-found status as an empty-nester and single woman.
Chianese, born and raised in Brooklyn, began her love of reading at the Brooklyn Public Library in Grand Army Plaza and has been writing as long as she was able to hold a pencil. A voracious reader herself, she has been meeting with book clubs on the East Coast to give readers a chance to hear first-hand from the author about her work.
Mercy was recently featured at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, and Chianese has been holding readings and book-signings throughout the tri-state area.
Reviewer and fellow author, Maureen Linker, said the story captures a New York City life that many may never have known first-hand.
“Though today’s hipsters might long to capture the ‘authentic’ Brooklyn of the 1970s and 80s,” Linker wrote. “Chianese takes us back to the pain and glory of growing up during the time of struggling artists, a New York City with empty museums and Park Slope families lined up for government cheese.”
Readers have praised the look back at a different time as well as the main character’s relentless efforts to forge a better future.
“I loved Carly, I loved her resilience, and I loved her determination to become a better person,” wrote Rabia Tanveer. “Her story is so pure and real; you cannot help but sympathize with her and love her. I wish I could give this novel more than five stars!”
The book cruises along until Carly’s self-involved father, an over-the-hill country music star, tries to resurrect his career with a reality show that soon ensnares the entire family in craziness they’d all rather avoid.
Throw in a tumultuous Westchester Thanksgiving dinner with exes and fisticuffs, a police incident on the Tappan Zee Bridge and you’ve got a fast-paced finish that leaves the reader equal parts fulfilled and still looking for more.
Mercy is available on Amazon and at local bookstores upon request, including Scattered Books in Chappaqua.
For more information about the book and author, please visit: www.rchianese.com.