By Stephen Manchester
The Story Plant
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 5 stars
Taking an incident from the news in the late seventies, Steven Manchester, through his fiction, has transformed the headlines into the day-to-day reality experienced by people because of it. Neo-Mull Soy, a baby formula fed to thousands of infants who rejected a milk-based formula, lacked enough chloride, or sodium. Lacking this vital ingredient in the development of an infant’s brain, the formula put infants at risk of poor muscle control, slowed growth, learning disabilities, and lifelong speech and language disorders.
Subsequent court cases led to the recall of the product, as well as legislation in the eighties to prevent such a recurrence, but that did not help the babies hurt by the formula.
When Brian was eleven months old, the family changed doctors for a second opinion on Brian’s heath problems that had led to his hospitalization. The new doctor told them about the problems discovered with Neo-Mull Soy formula and diagnosed that Brian’s development was severely damage from it. He delivered the upsetting news that Brian would never walk or talk, now permanently mentally disabled.
That is when Mama went into action. Throughout the story is the presence of Mama, the Italian grandmother whose faith and love propelled the miracles to deal with this tragedy one day at a time.
The traditional Italian family life comes alive, with the red macaroni gravy cooking, homemade raviolis, spinach pies, and the pastries bought walking the streets of little Italy. Within this setting comes a glimpse into family life, with the squabbles and failings, along with the strength and cemented family bonds. Brian’s condition touches every aspect of the lives of his parents and siblings Chrissy, Steph, and Russ, but Mama’s wisdom holds the family together.
To any question for which she had no answer, Mama would deliver the best answer of all: “God knows…and that’s enough.”