‘Today Show’: Jenna Bush Hager Goes Mafia for November’s Page-Turning Book Club Pick

Jenna Bush Hager is taking on the topic of organized crime from a female perspective in November’s “Read With Jenna” selection. The Today Show star promises readers a compelling journey of family and friendship while exploring the intricacies of mafia ties within several Italian American generations.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager smile on the set of the 'Today Show'
Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on the ‘Today Show’ | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Jenna Bush raves of ‘The Family’

The debut novel by Naomi Krupitsky chronicles the lifelong friendship of free spirit Sofia Colicchio and pensive Antonia Russo, who both have fathers in organized crime. “The Family” explores the underworld of the mafia in relation to loyalty between friends and blood relatives. Allegiance gets tested one fateful night, bringing readers toward a stirring conclusion.

Set against the backdrop of Red Hook, Brooklyn, “The Family” dives deep into the culture and traditions of Italian American families. Following Sofia and Antonia from the 1930s into adulthood, the novel takes readers into the inner workings of a friendship that must fight against family expectations in order to survive.

Hager shared her excitement for her November pick on social media, and praised Krupitsky for employing such a unique narrative.

“November’s @readwithjenna pick is….“The Family” by @naomikrupitsky!” Hager posted on Instagram. “Sofia and Antonia’s meaning of the world family is charged with violent undertones and organized crime. In this debut novel, Krupitksy tells the mafia’s story through the female gaze of these two young girls as they grow into wives and mothers. A story that will leave you craving Sunday night dinners, brings 1930s and 1940s Brooklyn to life!”

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‘The Family’ author created a friendship of ‘opposites’

Krupitsky envisioned the the close kinship between Sofia and Antonia when developing the story. The author pushed the boundaries of their strong bond to make for a compelling focal point amidst life in organized crime.

“I got this image of this friendship between these two little girls,” Krupitsky explained to Today.com. “In the book, they grow up in apartments that share a wall and that was very clear to me right from the beginning. They have sort of a yin and yang friendship.”

The novelist purposely developed the girls’ personalities in contrast to each other to bring the story more depth.

“One of the most important things to me that I hope readers find is this sense of play between opposites,” Krupitsky said. “The characters in the book are really violent, but you really love them. The girls are really sort of polar opposites, but they find strength in each other and that sort of refusal to see anything as black and white really informed me when I was writing.”

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Naomi Krupitsky gets accolades for ‘The Family’

Critics seem to align with Hager’s view of Krupitsky’s first novel. Publisher’s Weekly says the author “beautifully captures [Sofia and Antonia’s] day-to-day lives under never-ending tension. The women’s rich stories make this worthwhile.”

Kirkus Reviews raved, “Fast-paced and readable, and the ebb and flow between Sofia and Antonia as secrets threaten their friendship propel the reader forward.”

Katie Couric Media called the novel a “female version of The Sopranos… As voyeurs, we get to watch two women love and lose, feel and learn, while losing ourselves in the staccato melody of Naomi’s prose.”

“The Family” is now on sale.