The story behind the story...
In 2004, while researching the online archives of her hometown newspaper for a client, freelance writer Rita Schiano stumbled upon archived stories about her father's murder and the possible mob connections that led to his death. This brief visit to her past inspired her to look deeply into the heart of her childhood. The journey she embarked on was nothing she could have ever anticipated. Rather than place her work into the harsh scrutiny of memoirs, Schiano developed her story through the eyes of a fictional character, Anna Matteo. It is the story of a stolen childhood, a family torn apart by the violence of mafia ties, and one young girl's resilient spirit that allowed her to rise above the hardships and seek solace in the most unusual ways.
Employing philosophical insight and a sardonic wit, Schiano vividly takes the reader through myriad brush strokes as her character paints the unfinished portraits of both her father and herself.
What Reviewers Are Saying . . .
What is often talked about in fiction writing is that every novel has pieces of the author's life hidden in the details. In Rita Schiano's emotionally riveting novel, Painting the Invisible Man, there is no hiding the parallels between Rita's life and that of her main character, Anna Matteo. And yet it is with this honesty and quiet depiction of reality that Schiano creates memorable characters and beautiful prose. Schiano explores the emotional ties that bind us to our family and our history. She shows that it is our past that gives birth to our dreams and it is our future that gives us hope. Rita Schiano's Painting the Invisible Man explores truth through the veil of fiction and highlights these truths with honesty and emotional intensity. A beautiful poetic read! -- BookFinds.com
Rita Schiano's novel, "Painting the Invisible Man," is, unfortunately, based on her father's 1976 murder.
Boasting a conversational prose style spiced with 1970s' allusions (Jethro Tull, Muhammad Ali, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), Schiano's story flows smoothly even as she swings rhythmically from present-day action to flashback. The use of italics to denote either flashbacks or inner thought is especially effective in keeping readers on track.
While the gangland rub-out drives the book, it's less a mystery and more a coming-of-age story, Rita's own. She's represented here as the novel's narrator, Anna Matteo. We get to know the youthful Anna, a wiseacre who talks back to her teachers, carries a pellet gun in a shoulder holster under her school jacket and reads books such as "Compulsion." And we get to know the 21st century Anna who, due to a computer-era twist of fate, finds herself reliving the whys and wherefores of her dad's untimely death two decades past.
With its finely drawn characters, snappy streetwise dialogue and suspenseful action running through Italian neighborhoods, churches, restaurants, schools and police stations, "Painting the Invisible Man" is both readable and rewarding. -- Russ Tarby, columnist, Eagle Newspapers
More than twenty years has passed since her father's gangland style murder, and Anna Matteo had moved on with her life. Or, so she thought. When she stumbles across old newspaper articles about the murder trial, however, she realizes that she has wounds that have never healed and questions that have never been answered. Had she ever really known her father? If not, could she ever really know herself?
Rita Schiano's Painting the Invisible Man is absolutely riveting. Described by the author as "somewhere between a contemporary historical novel and a roman a clef," Painting the Invisible Man is a fictional telling of Schiano's own experiences growing up in a family on the fringe of organized crime. Schiano writes with an earthy beauty that is almost poetic. And, she is utterly believable, raw, and genuine.
I really enjoyed Painting the Invisible Man. Schiano does a magnificent job of telling a complex and emotional story. She doesn't simplify, and she doesn't provide easy, tidy answers. Instead she offers a tale well-told and a marvelous read.
Highly recommended.at Saturday, July 04, 2009
Rita Schiano creates a cast of multifaceted characters who are the backdrop to this first person tale of self discovery. Her liberal use of flashbacks create a sense of being in Anne's head and living Anne's life. In Painting the Invisible Man, Rita touches upon families, grief, loss, sexuality, and coming of age -- all different parts of the human experience. -- Erin Nass, Luxury Reading.com
Painting the Invisible Man...is a compelling read, a journey of heart and soul, that keeps one riveted as it weaves the tapestry of Anna Matteo's life. The writing is superb....the commingled stories -- past and present -- unfold like a bolt of cloth revealing its richness. The characters are well developed; Anna's parents are lovingly depicted, their humanness is sometimes heart-wrenching. Rita Schiano's voice carries the story on the deepest emotions and the warmest wit. I have no reservations in recommending this book whole-heartedly; I look forward to reading more by Rita Schiano. -- Reviewed By Carolyn Lecomte, Bestsellers World.com
Painting the Invisible Man is a historical fiction novel about an ordinary writer drawn into conducting research on the world of her father, a man murdered in a gangland-style hit more than two decades ago. The deeper she immerses herself in the painful and unresolved past, the more obsessed she becomes with uncovering the truth about her father, whom she thinks of as "The Invisible Man." Written with razor-sharp wit, Painting the Invisible Man is an absorbing tale that smoothly blends the quest for truth with the complexities of a self-portrait. -- Midwest Book Review
It's interesting how Rita Schiano took a real life event involving her father and turned it into a wonderfully, charming story about one woman's quest to find out the truth about her father's murder. Anna Matteo, the main character in this story, discovers that her father was killed what may have a mob hit because of his gambling debts. The more she digs deeper into this long ago event, the closer she comes to the truth. Painting The Invisible Man is a witty and pleasurable book. -- Dan's Journal
Rita Schiano truly has a gift for writing, and captures the characters and time frames perfectly.... Painting the Invisible Man is a true glimpse of the life of Anna and her family in the 1970's, her relationship with her father, mother and brother, and the grown-up Anna; ready to face her fears and live her life without boundaries. Read this book - you won't be disappointed. My Rating: Five Stars -- Missy's Book Nook
Have you ever read a book that left you so full of emotion, you found it hard to discuss its contents? It's not often a book renders me searching for words that adequately express my feelings, but Painting the Invisible Man has done just that. Most novels I'd describe as easy-breezy reads. I enjoy them, love to discuss them, and then want to move on. But Rita Schiano's book touched me in a place I rarely disclose to the public. The main character, Anna Matteo, hits a point in her life where she must come face to face with her past. Twenty years earlier, her father was murdered and she ran away and closed off a part of herself. Now, Anna stumbles across articles related to her father and she's ready to go back and understand what happened the day her father was murdered. -- Reviewed by J. Kaye Oldner, J. Kaye's Book Blog
For the full review and reader comments go to: http://j-kaye-book-blog.blogspot.com/ October 30, 2007 entry
Painting the Invisible Man is both touching and even humorous at times. I found myself rooting for Anna, hoping she not only discovered who her father was, but found herself and her own happiness as well. Rita Schiano has proven herself to be a powerful, talented storyteller. -- Reviewed by Jennifer Baker, Shelfari Author Review
For the full review and reader comments go to:
An Interview With The Author
The disclaimer on the copyright page indicates that Painting The Invisible Man is based on a known event.
Yes, that's true. The story is influenced by the 1976 murder of my father. Like the character Anna, I was researching the archives of my hometown newspaper for a client, and I made a keying error. I accidentally charged ten articles instead of one to my credit card. After retrieving my client's news article, I began typing in names of people I knew that still lived in Syracuse. Why I typed my father's name, I'll never know.
What did you find?
I found thirty-seven articles from the 1990s that referenced my father. It wouldn't have been all that strange had my father not died in 1976.
Was there a particular headline that caught your attention?
There was one that mentioned FBI surveillance tapes of the man who was acquitted of my father's murder, bragging about getting away with murder twenty years before. At that moment I knew I had to explore this story.
Why did you choose to write this as a contemporary historical fiction rather than as a memoir?
After the James Frey debacle, memoir is a fearsome word. For much of the story I had to rely on my memory and the recollections of people involved with the trials. Fiction gave me the freedom to create a compelling story.
Anna, in her youth, was rather an odd kid. Were you?
Oh yeah. I was very peculiar. Anna's accoutrements were most definitely fashioned after mine. I never understood my strange childhood ways until I began writing this book. Now it all makes sense.
The character Sophia, Anna's cousin, is married to the defense attorney, Greg Haynes. It was an interesting twist. Fiction of fact?
(Laughing) Certainly you've heard the phrase, "Truth is stranger than fiction." That is so very true. My cousin Terri, who was just a kid when my father died, did marry the defense attorney several years later.
So Anna's quandaries mirrored your own?
Yes. Like Anna, I had to confront a lot of intensely challenging and personal issues. Truths about my father, truths about myself, truths about people I once thought were trustworthy. Like Anna, I struggled with writing this story. It took me five years. Of course, most of that time was spent avoiding it. But once I made up my mind, it spewed forth like a volcanic eruption. As painful as the process was at times, in the end it was tremendously cathartic and healing.
I think the fact that this story is steeped in truth is compelling. Do you think people who don't know you will find it to be so?
Absolutely. I think fans of The Soprano's and this genre will find Painting The Invisible Man intriguing. It offers an inside look at what it's like to grow up in this kind of family. Most of us aren't privileged like Meadow Soprano or grow up like the Gotti's.
What Readers Are Saying . . .
...Painting the Invisible Man is not only a tremendously good read as a story of the complex dynamics of an Italian family on the fringes of the mafia, but a painful coming of age story that has resonance with anyone who feels that his family is out of the norm. And who doesn't. As a child, Anna adapts to her world with extraordinary and heartbreaking creativity, usually at the expense of fitting in with her peers. As an adult, writing is the vehicle that allows her to unravel, and causes her come to terms with, her history. This was a book that I couldn't put down. It is also a book that I will want to reread and savor anew. -- A reader from San Francisco, CA
Painting the Invisible Man is a fascinating story of a world mostly know to people only through what we read about or see on T. V . It actually brought the "Mafia" world to light in a surprising way. Through the eyes of a young girl who grows into a woman, wondering throughout her life the true story of her father. Coping with the fact that her favorite cousin could actually marry the man who allowed her father's killer to walk free. Coming to terms with the man himself is an enormous triumph that the reader hopes comes to light for Anna. Schiano's writing, is brilliant, giving credit to her Muse (Amy Tan), was a personal touch that helped the story flow, you feel her cheering Anna (Schiano) on and cheer along with her... -- A reader from Virginia Beach, VA
From the opening pages, I was enthralled by the intrigue of the story and felt instantly connected to its characters. Except for the mystery of Paul Matteo's disappearance,the Matteo family was my family. I had empathy for the main characters, Paul's wife, son, and daughter. There was an ethereal oneness with Anna and how the "universe," by a stroke of the wrong key, led her to the journey of all the unanswered questions of her life. I felt the hurt, anger, pain, and abandon of the family. At the same time, from my own life experiences as a young Italian girl, I understood the "family code" of keeping up appearances as if everything is normal in our lives. This book is must read! I left me wanting more by this gifted and insightful author. -- A reader from Massachusetts