Five-Finger Discount

A Crooked Family History

Growing up in Jersey City – in a family of crooks – is tough enough. Getting out in one piece is a whole other story.

With deadpan humor and obvious affection, Five-Finger Discount recounts the story of an unforgettable New Jersey family of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers, and mobster-wannabes. In the memoir that reviewer Mary Karr calls “a page-turner,” Helene Stapinski ingeniously weaves the checkered history of her hometown of Jersey City– a place known for its political corruption and industrial blight– with the tales that have swirled around her relatives for decades. Navigating a childhood of toxic waste and tough love, Stapinski tells an extraordinary tale at once heartbreaking and hysterically funny.


[The] unsentimental, unapologetic, and bracingly nonwhining tone isn’t the only thing that sets Five-Finger Discount apart from the typical memoir of familial dysfunction. Ms. Stapinski simply has better material than your average blabbermouth. . . . Most important, Helene Stapinski has Jersey City in all its grimy glory.

The Wall Street Journal

Stapinski is rich in both stories and kinfolk, a gaggle of rogues and outlaws who will hold any reader in thrall. This is a page turner.

Mary Karr

Author, The Liars' Club

This quirky memoir begins, quite literally, with a bang. . . . Stapinski feels an obvious affection for her crooked clan, and there’s some real humor in their vividly remembered misdeeds.

Entertainment Weekly

By turns hilarious and alarming, uproarious and depressing, [Stapinski’s] book reads on the surface like something by Damon Runyon and Elmore Leonard, with a dark undertow of real-life pain and disillusion.

Michiko Kakutani

The New York Times

A book teeming with unruly life. That is, with laughter, violence, early death, buried histories, and much larceny. The reader will never look at New Jersey again in the same way.

Pete Hamill

Stapinski captures the street-level conviviality of the urban working class while unveiling the mob mentality hedonism, desperation, and violence lurking underneath.

Village Voice

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