Late author Mario Puzo was a literary heavyweight known for crime sagas like The Godfather, but as portrayed in this memoir by his longtime lover and friend Carol Gino, he was also a father, a widower, a world traveler, a spirited gambler, and a master of thoughtful, prickly conversations about topics that matter. Gino briefly outlines her life prior to meeting Puzo, including a prior marriage and a career spent in nursing and patient advocacy, before diving deep into the details of their relationship.
Artist memoirs can easily veer into navel-gazing territory, but ME & MARIO is grounded again and again by its central relationship, a decades-long romance and partnership that’s at once funny and self-serious, comfortable and exhilarating. Fans of Puzo’s will be enthralled by anecdotes that reveal his thoughts on everything from the female characters in his work to the artistic choices made by the director of The Godfather III, yet Gino never sells herself short either. She’s an active participant in this story, and her evolution–as a feminist, a partner, and eventually, a published author herself–is just as compelling as her counterpart’s.
ME & MARIO isn’t perfect. Descriptions of hotel suites become redundant, and sections describing the couple’s jet-setting lifestyle never come alive quite as vividly as most pages that transcribe the relaxed, intelligent conversations and verbal sparring matches that the pair often shared. Some conversations grate, as when Puzo repeatedly brings up his fears about the extinction of man and other surprising generalizations about gender that are met with more generalizations from Gino.
Still, ME & MARIO is an enjoyable read, not just for fans of either author, but for anyone who appreciates time spent pondering art, life, love, and the big questions that haunt us. Several anecdotes are crafted around excellent punchlines, and despite the couple’s recurring sore spots–he doesn’t trust, she feels any slight deeply–there’s a charm to their unorthodox romance that’s undeniable. When Puzo’s story ends, as all must, Gino captures his last days with unparalleled emotion–sorrow for what has gone, and understanding of the love that’s been shared. Earlier in the book, Puzo tells her to write their story, saying, “You write it. Get out there and stand for us.” With ME & MARIO, she’s done just that.
Not all anecdotes are created equal, but most in Carol Gino’s ME & MARIO create a compelling portrait of two great minds and the adventurous, good-natured, and introspective love affair they embarked on together.
~Valerie Ettenhofer for IndieReader