A feminist saga of true crime and justice, The Good Mothers is the story of a high-stakes battle pitting a brilliant, driven woman fighting to save a nation against ruthless mafiosi fighting for their existence. Caught in the middle are three women fighting for their children and their lives. Not all will survive.
Perry’s account is thorough and wrenching. It is difficult for an outsider to comprehend the ferocity of the Ndrangheta or the gruesome demands it makes of its constituents. While Cerreti’s work has made an indelible mark on the Ndrangheta, Perry leaves no doubt that securing any long-lasting gains will require much more than an enterprising prosecutor and her devoted team of attorneys and law enforcement professionals. The real healing begins when a society, even a small part of it, demands that the rotting appendage is not welcome within the body politic any longer.
Lea’s vanishing provides The Good Mothers with a suspenseful kickoff, her last days alive as observed by a teenage Denise. The mystery’s solution waits till the closing chapters. Thus human drama shapes the narrative; it ends with the daughter’s tearful farewell at a massive 2013 rally in the mother’s memory. Still, The Good Mothers is casting a wider net, indicting an entire pestilent culture ... it’s good to go step by step, as Perry does, through the destruction of these clans. It’s good to linger over the women’s triumph, since theirs is but one battle in the war against what Perry calls a 'global mafia.' So his book celebrates how a few heroes made a significant change for the better—in a 'display of adamant and unyielding femininity.'
Perry’s narrow focus in his book...leads him to emphasize the personal and cultural dimensions of the ’Ndrangheta, and as a result he gives insufficient attention to the economic and political power of organized crime in southern Italy ... Perry mentions that the ’Ndrangheta has politicians in its pockets, but we don’t grasp the importance of this because they were not part of the Garofalo, Pesce, and Cacciola cases ... According to Perry the ’Ndrangheta’s power remains essentially intact, but he doesn’t give a full picture of its size and complexity. The ’Ndranghetisti we meet in The Good Mothers are simply crude, violent thugs. Yet the ’Ndrangheta has mutated into a highly sophisticated organization with well-educated gangsters who are comfortable in the world of international commerce and launder money through corporations, real estate, and offshore banking centers ... The cases that Perry writes about enabled prosecutors to put 127 ’Ndranghetisti on trial, proved that the group was operating in about 120 locations around the world, and broke the culture of silence surrounding it ... Unfortunately, the problem goes deeper than culture: it involves changing the economic structure of southern Italy, reducing its extreme dependence on public money, and creating a healthy private economy there. That would involve a painful, complex period of transition that no political party in Italy has the stomach to undertake.