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When Tosca Ring is seven years old, she abruptly goes “on vacation” from her home in New York City to Cuernavaca, Mexico with her parents and six siblings during an FBI investigation into her father’s Mafia dealings. From there, she is catapulted into a nomadic life marked by secrecy and false identities. Her father’s criminality continues, and the family continues to go “on vacation”—often in the middle of the night, always without warning—through five countries and two continents. As they move, so, too, do Tosca’s internal landscapes. Her life becomes a chain of shifting realities, linked by secrets and shaped by growing violence and deceptions. As Tosca grows into young adulthood, she fights back to discover her true identity. The Opposite of Hollywood is based on Margo Perin’s childhood. Published by Whoa Nelly Press.
Check out Margo's interviews on BBC World Service Outlook and BBC News, Culture Connect TV and KPFA!
Tolstoy wrote that every happy family is the same, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way -- he might have been writing about the family of Tosca Ring. In Margo Perin's poignant autobiographical novel, we hear the powerful voice of this bold little girl as she grows up in a family dominated by a father who is not only brutal to his seven children, but a crook of such enormous proportions that Tosca has moved (many times in the middle of the night) from New York, to Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, Scotland and England before she reaches puberty. Perin captures the child's voice perfectly, describing what's important to her -- from stealing candy from the corner store to a moment's kindness from a friend's mother -- and wondering about the things she cannot fathom -- especially her father's fists, her mother's complicity in his violence, and why the family has to change their last name every time they move. In each new school she wonders how she will remember the new family name. As a teen, she grows both more despairing and more bold and we wonder how she will ever escape this family's fights, secrets and betrayals. With no money and no place to go, there's no easy way out -- but we see her inner strength growing too, and keep cheering her on.
Elaine Elinson, author of Wherever There's a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California.
The Opposite Of Hollywood, an autobiographic novel, is a riveting story of the multi-layered life of a family always on the move, to escape the risk surrounding them due to the father’s criminal acts. The family goes on “vacation,” often in the middle of the night, relocating from country to country. As the young protagonist of the novel lives through all the moves and deceptions and secrecies, she tries to discover her true identity. The writing is lyrical, the plot is gripping.
Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls, a memoir.
Margo Perin’s new novel is the opposite of dull. If you enjoy razor sharp writing and psychological thrillers, this is for you. If you enjoy novels about multi-layered family relationships, stories of sibling rivalry and brutal, zany parenting, you’ll love this. If tales of runaways from the FBI tweak your interest, this is for you. Tosca and her brothers and sisters are named after operatic and showbiz characters. All gifted, and courageous in dealing with one shock after another, their story resembles the heightened narrative of an opera, complete with comedy and tragedy. I don’t want to give anything away, but I found the journey of this feisty protagonist deeply moving and satisfying. Diane Langford, author of Left for Dead.
Margo Perin's gripping tale of Tosca Ring and her six siblings growing up with a father who is a professional con man, always on the lam, moving the entire family from New York to Mexico, to Nassau, and ultimately to London, and a mother who fails to intervene, even when he is finally dragged off by Interpol, is a testament to childhood resilience. Her unerring narrative voice makes the reader suspect that the book is more autobiographical than fictitious. If Ms. Perin experienced even half of the craziness and abuse described so convincingly in her debut novel, we can only be grateful that she used the experience, and her considerable skills as a writer, to give us such a good read. Don't miss it!
Susan Pena, "La Familia Peña-Govea"