Pub Date: April 25, 2023
Author: J. A. Cancelmo
Tony D’Marino lives a seemingly charmed existence. From immigrant roots to a Harvard MBA, he’s amassed a formidable stock portfolio and owns a sprawling Soho loft with Hudson River views. But images of post-apocalyptic Detroit have triggered a traumatic memory from his college years in the ’70s—memories he can’t live with or without. He’s desperate to reconnect with parts of himself left unfinished when his best friend Roman was left dead by his side. Tony’s return to an officially bankrupt, dystopian Detroit begins with a series of uncanny experiences, with old and new relationships. He’s driven to answer essential questions about the murder and face conflicts around race, maleness, and sexuality left unresolved. Detroit Unrequited is part psychological mystery and part historical reflection. It is a tale of lives derailed by trauma and attempts at resolution and reinvention for the characters and the post-apocalyptic city.
“Detroit is a fascinating city—whether in the 1970s, the 2010s, or today—and Cancelmo evokes it with urgency and tenderness over the course of this novel.”
“Joe Cancelmo’s deft and absorbing Detroit Unrequited investigates the challenges of growing up in the turmoil of 1970s Detroit. His complex and likable characters grapple with the big issues: forming an identity, the nature of home, the fault lines of race in our culture. In vivid prose and lively dialogue, Cancelmo shines a light on a specific culture moment that continues to resonate today.” —Carol Wallace, author of Our Kind of People
“Tony, a financially successful middle-aged man, mired in alcohol, social isolation, and tenacious survivor guilt, delves into the tragedy that shattered his exciting but chaotic college years in the racially torn, sexually liberated Detroit of the mid-’70s. When he returns to Detroit years later, his suspense-filled investigation stirs memories of traumas endured in quiet desperation —the shadows of childhood sexual abuse and the confusion of an unacknowledged love derailed by gun violence. His quest to fully apprehend what happened becomes a passionate search for lost loves and a dormant craving for new ones. Tony’s story toggles between the 70s and the 2010s, but its dialogue with race, post-binary gender identities and desire, and socio-economic disparities are every bit as compelling today. Cancelmo’s prose so vividly paints Tony’s lived experience that it was only at the end did I fully appreciate the depth and complexity of Tony’s struggles. A masterful portrait of one person’s psychological reality in all its contradictions and strivings.”
—Paul Geltner, DSW, Psychoanalyst, and author of the acclaimed Emotional Communication in Psychoanalysis.
“A John Grisham-like page-turner, a psychological mystery about the protagonist’s life changing loss, the traumatic impact of the killing of a college friend in Detroit in the ’70s. The narrative, the cadence of words, the period slang make this a most compelling read.”
Dr. Janice S. Lieberman, Ph.D., Psychoanalyst, Social Psychologist, and author of Body Talk: Looking and Being Looked at in Psychotherapy and co-author of The Many Faces of Deceit: Omissions, Lies, and Disguise in Psychotherapy with Helen K. Gediman, Ph.D.