Tina replied, anger flaring, “And what am I like? Exactly like everybody. A normal person. Like everyone else. That’s how I want to be. Normal.” p. 209
How can anyone who has seen her father shot in the face, when she was just eight years old, be normal? The life of a family whose father was in the mafia is anything but normal, especially for Tina who determines to be tougher than ever imagined.
She takes his weapons (a twelve gauge hunting rifle with sawed-off barrels and a nine-caliber Beretta with a thirteen round magazine) from the drawer where they were carefully wrapped, and sticks the handgun down the back of her shirt, just like her father did. “From now on, she promised herself, “no one can call me Cettina again.” Her aim, now, is for revenge.
Tina isn’t like everyone else…Tina is a unique figure, with a strong, complex personality. What’s more, she’s internalized the image of herself that the mafia offered. So part of her is an act, and part is her real will to break out of the pack, to prevail, to affirm herself at any cost. A vicious circle has been triggered. And now it’s impossible for her to back down.
We learn about Tina through the eyes of the narrator, who relentlessly pursues Tina through the pages of the novel. We are introduced to her sister, Saveria, and her brother, Francesco; her grandmother and friend, Giovanna. Little by little, Tina becomes known, for she has an almost obsessive hold on the narrator’s life: her imagination and her time.
For what other reason would I be here digging into a story that’s so desperately Sicilian? For what else if not for this unutterable fantasy, for this perverse, romantic obstinacy of mine to consider myself in a land of exile wherever I am? A heartfelt myth that only the “exiled” can recognize, unknown to the “Sicilians of Sicily” as the captain says. For those who escaped the diaspora, belonging is a given, not a choice.
Tina, Mafia Soldier is about a girl who has turned into a mafiosa. It is about the narrator who boldly pursues her. But, it also encompasses a Sicily I will never know. One that contains “small-time murders and monumental crimes - on this island that is open to every invasion and closed around its secret pain.”
Tina has learned this truth: that I alone can take my life in my hands. I alone.