Turning the Tables Overview
Teresa Giudice has gone from being famous for her table-flip in Season One of The Real Housewives of New Jersey to notorious as a convicted felon. After spending six seasons throwing money around to build and furnish her lavish home and buying her four daughters everything they could ever want, Teresa was sentenced to fifteen months at FCI Danbury, a minimum-security prison made famous by Orange is the New Black. Fans of RHoNJ followed Teresa’s story with intense interest, wondering how the cookbook maven would survive her time behind bars. Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again describes Teresa’s experience in prison, from the monotony of daily life to the friendships she forged with her fellow inmates.
Teresa used a diary she kept of her experiences while serving her just-shy-of-a-year sentence to write Turning the Tables. In the book, Teresa discusses growing up in Paterson as the daughter of hardworking Italian immigrants, marrying her childhood sweetheart Joe, and finding fame on TV. Teresa never goes into detail about the crimes that led to her sentencing, but she does discuss the basics of her trial and conviction. Shocked that she’d been sentenced to serve time in prison, Teresa spent her remaining months at home spending quality time with her family before leaving her McMansion in the middle of the night to turn herself in. Throughout her time in prison, Teresa learns the ropes of prison etiquette while dealing with the heart-wrenching pain of being apart from her family. Teresa’s faith in God and commitment to self-improvement help her power through her months in jail, and she returns to her family vowing to be a better person.
I’ve been a fan of RHoNJ since its first season. I’m a Jersey girl myself, and seeing the lives of people who live close to me play out on TV was exciting, especially the early seasons with Danielle Staub’s unique brand of drama throwing the other women for a loop. I’ve met two of the housewives before and they were very kind (Caroline and her daughter Lauren, and Teresa herself…I stood in line in the rain for hours so she could sign my copy of her first Skinny Italian cookbook) and seen another (Danielle) at my local Cheesecake Factory. I may have even driven past their houses on impromptu RHoNJ tours. I mean, when you live fifteen minutes away from Bravolebrities, that’s what you do when nothing else is going on. Hell, even my best friend from pre-school appeared in the background of an episode or two! They’re my countrywomen, and I’m along for the ride. I’ve even attended a few parties for season premieres and finales, and made a Jersey-themed tiramisu for one such event.
I enjoyed Teresa’s cookbooks and hoped that her prison tell-all would be a fun beach read as well. Alas, Teresa should stick to doling out authentic recipes for classic and unique Italian dishes. Teresa’s writing is suited for short snippets accompanying a recipe, not a full book. I don’t know if she didn’t have enough material and struggled to stretch what she had into a 250-page book or if she’s just not that good at writing, but Turning the Tables was repetitive and sounded like it was written by a student who just learned how to write five-paragraph essays. It was so repetitive, I made a drinking game: every time she says “Madonna mia…“, tells you what a good person she is, refers to someone by an insensitive nickname, transcribes part of an episode of RHoNJ, throws in random Italian words…take a drink. Information was repeated ad nauseam. It felt like chapters just repeated the same information and most of it wasn’t interesting. Teresa kept to herself in jail, made a few friends, and stayed out of drama. Good for her, but it doesn’t make for great reading.
Although most of the book was dull, I felt for Teresa when she described leaving her family, which was still reeling from the sudden death of her father-in-law. For all the drama she’s brought with her in the past, you can’t deny that Teresa adores her family, especially her daughters. Her true, best self comes through when she describes the pain she felt when she was able to talk on the phone with her kids and husband, and spend precious hours with them during visitation hours. Even though she felt blessed to have contact with them, those brief snippets of quality time also caused Teresa tremendous pain. That’s a feeling I strongly identify with. I hate goodbyes, even when I know I’ll see the person again. Being apart from loved ones is distressing, and Teresa used that distress to fuel her resolve to stay strong, follow the rules, and complete her sentence. Whenever she felt her strength wavering and was tempted to get into prison drama, she thought of her girls. Teresa shared this strength with fellow inmates, encouraging them to ignore petty prison gripes so they could get home faster. She knew that acting out could result in an extension of her sentence, or being sent to a maximum-security prison, so she devoted her time to quashing her quick temper. Teresa has since continued a daily yoga routine she started in prison, which she says changed her life. She claims to have left prison a calmer, more thoughtful, less reactive person. I guess we’ll have to tune into RHoNJ this season to see if that’s true.
Rating: 2 out of 5 flipped tables