Friday 1 December 2023

Book Review - Covered in Flour by Dr. Charles Presti


Covered in Flour

By Dr. Charles Presti

Publication Date: 9th October 2023
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 199 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

It's 1968 in Whisper Haven, and 8-year-old Carl Pozzi's world is about to change.

For eight-year-old Carl Pozzi, 1968 begins like any other year—playing kickball with friends and enjoying the comforting aroma of Mom's pasta dinners in their predominantly white suburban Whisper Haven home. But when Carl's teacher introduces lessons about racial prejudice and injustice, his worldview cracks wide open.

How far can innocence stretch before it snaps?

As Carl flips through the pages of his 3-ring binder, each lesson serves as a gateway to a journey of self-discovery and understanding. It's an expedition that not only changes him but reshapes his whole concept of family and justice—especially as he watches his father put on a police uniform during one of the most fraught periods in American history.

"Covered in Flour" is not just a heartfelt stroll down memory lane. It's a captivating coming-of-age saga that digs deep beneath the surface of suburban tranquility. It beckons you to reconsider long-held family values and confront the societal norms you've taken for granted.

Written with genuine love, humor, and a tinge of sorrow, this story blends the nostalgia of tradition with the inevitability of change, offering a stirring mix that leaves you pondering long after the last page is turned. This book isn't just a delightful read; it's a catalyst for introspection, freshly baked and served for your soul.

“The shrill ring of the telephone from the kitchen desk cut through the silence like a blade, pulling us back to the present moment. No one moved initially; we all just stared at each other. We all exchanged glances before my father's eyes met mine, a wordless cue for me to answer the call. 
"Hello?" I said, my voice barely above a whisper. 
"Hi, this is Miss Veezi. May I speak with your father, please?" The words sent a shiver down my spine. I paused, then turned toward the table.
"Dad, Miss Veezi is on the phone. She wants to talk to you."
Dad put his fork down, dabbed his lips with a paper towel, and stomped toward the phone. He picked up the receiver and listened. The expressionless mask that had been on his face shifted into a scowl, his eyes narrowing as he listened.”

The long wait is over for Carl Pozzi, as he finally gets the 3-ring binder for school and homework. With a sense of maturity, he approaches the new school year with enthusiasm. Like a sponge, he's eager to absorb everything Miss Veezi can teach him. 
While he may lack singing skills, much like his mother, he excels in math. However, Miss Veezi intends to do more than just teach the core subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic. She is determined to challenge her students with real-life problems and social issues.
Miss Veezi's teaching was nothing short of progressive, but when her teachings clashed with Carl's father’s views, Carl felt torn. Balancing the desire to please his teacher with the knowledge of respecting his father’s views becomes something of a challenge. Especially when he starts to grasp the concept of prejudice and racial inequality. He cannot help but wonder why his father, who is a policeman, despises coloured people so much.
Charles Presti's book, Covered in Flour, provides an insightful window into the mind of an eight-year-old boy during the most turbulent year of the 1960s.
The author effectively transports the readers into the story by appealing to all senses. The baking of bread can be smelt, childhood sweets can be tasted, hugs can be felt, songs can be heard, and the vibrancy of the era can be seen. This is a novel that totally immerses the reader and reminds them what life was like in a seemingly more simpler time. But, it is not all sweetness and light, for this was a period of profound social unrest, where the colour of your skin mattered. 1968 was a year that saw the assignation of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. It was also the year of the Glenville Shootout, all of which are mentioned in this novel.
Carl's story is depicted as a memoir. He is a young boy who has a strong zest for life. He is as mischievous as any eight-year-old boy, but he also has a strong desire to learn and to understand what is happening around him. He adores his mother and has a strong respect for his father. Despite his father’s stance on coloured people, Carl sees his father as a kind of superhero - he is a policeman and that in itself demands respect. Carl puts his dad on a pedestal but by the end of the novel, he begins to have a deeper understanding of his father. He also begins to understand the complexity of being an adult. He begins to recognise the responsibility that adults bear and he also begins to understand that behind the joyful family parties, there is an undercurrent of tension. While his grandparents try to keep unity there is a sense that once they have passed on, the family will split and never unite in the same way again. Carl is also awakened to the injustice around him especially when it comes to skin colour. He lives in an area where there are different ethnicities and faiths, but coloured people are unwelcome - he does not understand why this is. Carl came across as very real in the telling and his story is beautifully depicted. 
Miss Veezi, Carl's teacher, is a lively character known for her colourful attire and empathetic teaching style. She takes the time to teach the children about the world, especially emphasising racism, prejudice, and injustice. She has two methods for accomplishing this: first, by motivating her students to watch the sitcom "Julia," and second, by encouraging reading literature around the subject. Instead of pushing her opinion, she empowers her pupils to think independently. Through her teaching, she inspires Carl to think independently, which unintentionally makes him wonder at his father’s strong reaction against people of colour. Despite clashes in ideology, Miss Veezi maintains professionalism and doesn't judge Carl based on his father's beliefs. Miss Veezi is someone Carl greatly admires and it is very easy to see why. It was wonderful to see Carl flourish under her gentle teachings, as she is one of those teachers who sparks a passion for learning.
Carl's father, Nick, is a complex character. Despite being popular as a teenager, he had a temper that frequently spilt over at home. As an adult, he is very much the same. Despite not posing a physical threat to his children, they are afraid of his anger and know not to engage in arguments. He is also an unapologetic racist, who hates anyone of colour even if they are his colleagues. 
Carl also has the challenge of dealing with his father's disappointment in him - he will never match his father's athletic prowess. But Carl loves his father very much and often fears for him when he is at work. Carl’s relationship with his father really reflects the era the book is set in. 
Presti's writing has an authenticity that includes words not typically used today, but they serve as a reminder of the social history of the period. The historical details in this book also feel extremely authentic, which allows the reader to easily immerse themselves in the story and era. 
The enthralling story of Covered in Flour by Charles Presti keeps readers engaged from beginning to end. If you're craving pure nostalgia, then this novel is definitely for you. With its entertaining narrative, this story really does tick all the boxes.
I Highly Recommend.
Grab your copy HERE!

Charles Presti
Embarking on a fresh journey as a storyteller, Charles Presti brings a lifetime of experience as a retired physician and informatics specialist to his new role. Though "Covered in Flour" marks his debut as a published author, this coming-of-age story was born from the encouragement of loved ones who pushed him to share his stories through writing. 
While not identifying purely as an author, Charles finds joy in sharing stories that resonate with readers. He draws inspiration from his upbringing in 1960s suburbia as well as his experiences as a gay man finding his place in the world. 
When he's not crafting poignant narratives, you can find Charles enjoying life in Pensacola with his husband Mike Bruce, their Wheaton Terrier Zoey, and their close-knit community. Charles and Mike are active with their charity "Sunday's Child," which funds local non-profits and promotes diversity and inclusion. 
With warmth and authenticity, Charles' debut novel captures the complexity of growing up in a rapidly changing America. He invites readers into a world of family, self-discovery, and the meaning found in everyday moments.
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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx