Author: Georgia Durante

ISBN: 978-0-451-22568-9

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For Georgia Durante, a model in Rochester, New York in the 60’s, the world was “mysterious, exciting, and seductive.” She had an “endless appetite for excitement” and she attracted dangerous men. This led to her having several ties to the Mob and more than one bad relationship, which you can read about in her confessional memoir, The Company She Keeps.

She started running errands for the Mob as a young mother, leaving her baby daughter with her mother. “I was taken in by the intrigue…without much thought of consequence.” After one close call fleeing from a robbery (Georgia at the wheel) she had second thoughts while she accepted her cut of the money, but says she was “hooked on the adrenaline rush.” She seems so tough and worldly it is easy to forget that she was just a girl. Some readers might harshly judge her lifestyle; some might say she had it coming when her second husband—who also had ties to the Mob—quickly becomes an abusive, controlling force in her life, cutting her off from friends and family; but that attitude of “those women deserve it” is exactly the attitude that Georgia decries while opining on society’s oppressive view of women; which she had to deal with at any early age when she was violently raped by her sister’s husband.

This was just the beginning of the reoccurring violence that surrounded her young adult life. Besides witnessing violence in the Mafia and her tumultuous second marriage, her first husband’s brother kills his entire family, and later on an obsessive stalker holds a gun to her head. How does she deal with the violent tendencies of men around her? She says a dark shadow emerged through her pain. As an interesting device, she calls this hard-hearted, desensitized side “Georgia Black” a counter-point and protector to her vulnerable, soft-hearted side, “Georgia White.” Through-out the book, “Black” and “White” take turns emerging in different situations.

This memoir doesn’t fall easily into any category. Coming-of-age at the beginning, turning into survivor memoir mixed with true crime. Georgia shares some insights into the psyche of a domestic abuse victim; when writing about overcoming victim mentality and finding her inner-strength she is at her most introspective. Interestingly, after getting out of her second marriage, she calls her estranged husband (the abuser) to help her out of yet another violent relationship. He sends a guy to “take care of it.” Is this bizarrely sweet? Georgia makes it seem like it’s just another day in her crazy life.

Generally speaking, the second half is depressing as we see Georgia’s personal life fall into shambles but it’s during this time that she pursues a new career in L.A. as a stunt driver and gains confidence in herself.

I called this a “confessional” but sometimes it seems as if Georgia is only partially revealing the truth. Understandably, not too much is revealed about the Mafia or the errands she runs. At some points, she interrupts her personal commentary to give an editorial about the latest Mafia news of that time, but we don’t understand how much she has to do with these situations, and when she says her life revolved around her six-year-old and her new career, the FBI present themselves (for the second time) and it’s revealed that she’s been hanging out with John Gotti and Salvatore Reale. Drug usage is down-played and hinted at defensively; it is things like this, like the casual unremorseful mention of throwing an ashtray at her sister which caused fourteen stitches, which causes the reader to go “whoa—what is really going on here?” In the last chapter, she talks of soul-searching, needing to do inner-work to let light back into her spirit and become whole, but these just seem like superficial phrases.

There is one steady presence that gives the book a romantic quality: that of Frankie, and mobster she met in NYC the summer after high school graduation. He loved her but didn’t want her involved in his kind of life; little did he know she was destined for it anyway when he refused to marry her. They kept up a relationship all through Georgia’s life so far.

This book was originally published in 1998. As a re-release, this mass-market paperback edition includes an epilogue which shows real redemption and genuine soul-searching. Georgia is now involved in leading an abused-women organization and using her adventurous spirit to help people in crisis. I am looking forward to her next memoir.

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