Vito Andolini was twelve years old when his father was killed, who did not get along with the Sicilian mafia. As the mafia hunts for his son, Vito is sent to America. There he changes his name on Corleone – by the name of the village, where he comes from. Young Vito enters the grocery store of Abbandando. At the age of eighteen he marries, and in the third year of marriage he has the son Santino, whom everyone affectionately calls Sonny, and then the other – Frederico, Freddie.
Fannucci, a gangster who extorts money from shopkeepers, is building his nephew into Vito’s place, leaving Vito without work, and Vito is forced to join his friend Clementz and his accomplice Tessio, who are raiding the trucks with silk dresses, otherwise his family will die from hunger. When Fanucci demands his share of the money, Vito carefully calculates everything, coolly kills him. This makes Vito a respected person in the quarter. Clients of Fanucci go to him. In the end, he bases on a couple with his friend Janko Abbandando trading house for the importation of olive oil. Shopkeepers who do not want to stock up on their oil are engaged in Clemenza and Tessio – stores are burning, people are dying… Under the dry law, under the guise of a trading house, Vito is engaged in smuggling alcohol, after the repeal of the dry law passes to the gambling business. More and more people are working for him, and each Vito Corleone provides a comfortable life and protection from the police. To his name begin to add the word “don”, his respectfully called the Godfather.
Time goes by, Corleone has four children, and the orphaned homeless Tom Hagen is raised in their family. Sonny since sixteen years begins to work with his father – first as a bodyguard, then as commander of one of the armed groups of the Mafiosi along with Clementza and Tessio. Later in the family business are Freddie and Tom.
Don Corleone is the first to understand that one should not take shooting but politics and that in order to protect his world from government interference, criminal groups in New York and throughout the country should stick together. By his endeavors at a time when the outside world is shaking the Second World War, within the criminal world of America is calm and complete readiness to reap the benefits of the rise of the American economy. Only one sadness of the Don – his youngest son Michael rejects his father’s care and volunteers for the war, where he attains to the rank of captain, and after the war, again without asking anyone, leaves the house and enters the university.
The actual action of the novel begins in August 1945. The only daughter of Don Constance – Connie – is getting married. Don Corleone does not really like the future son-in-law, Carlo Rizzi, but he appoints him as a bookmaker in Manhattan and cares about removing the police records drawn up by Carlo in Nevada, where he used to live. Faithful people at the same time deliver Don information about the legal gambling houses of Nevada, and the Don listens to this information with great interest.
Among the other guests for the wedding comes the famous singer Johnny Fontaine, he is also the godson of the Don. Johnny did not have a life with his second wife, a voice disappears, troubles with the film business… He brings here not only love and respect for the Corleone family, but also the belief that the Godfather will help solve his problems. And really, don arranges that Johnny give a role for which he subsequently receives an Oscar, helps with family affairs and lends money enough to make Johnny a film producer. Fontaine’s paintings enjoy a frenzied success, and the Don gets a big profit – this person from all can profit.
When Don Corleone is offered to take part in the drug business together with the Tattalya family, he refuses, because it contradicts his principles. But Sonny was very interested that he did not hide from Solozzo, who gave Corleone this offer.
Three months later, an attempt was made on Vito Corleone. The killers manage to hide – weakly Freddie, replacing the bodyguard Don, numb, can not even pull out the machine gun.
In the meantime, Hagen is seized by the people of Solozzo. Having told Tom that Don Corleone was killed, Solozzo asks him to become a mediator in negotiations with Sonny, who will now become the head of the family and will be able to trade drugs. But then comes the news that, despite five bullets, the Godfather remained alive. Solotstso wants to kill Hagen, but he manages to deceive him.
Sonny and Solozzo begin endless negotiations. At the same time, Sonny “compares the bill” – Solozzo’s informant dies, they kill Tattaglia’s son… These days, Michael considers it his duty to be with his family.
One evening, when he went to the hospital, Michael discovers that someone recalled the people of Tessio guarding the Don chamber. So Solotstso now comes to kill his father! Michael quickly calls Sonny and takes a position... at the entrance to the hospital – hold out until his arrival. Here comes the captain of police McCloskey, bribed Solotstso. Furious with the fact that the operation failed, he breaks Michael’s jaw. Michael took it down without attempting to take revenge.
The next day, Solozzo reports that he wants to enter into negotiations through Michael, for he is considered an innocuous weakling. But Michael is filled with cold hatred of his father’s enemies. Agreeing to the negotiations, he kills both Solozzo and his accompanying Captain McCloskey. After that, he is forced to flee the country and hide in Sicily.
The police, while avenging the killing of the captain, suspend profitable activities that are committed in violation of the law. This brings a loss to all five families of New York, and since the Corleone family refuses to extradite the murderer, the internecine war of 1946 begins in the underworld. However, when Hagen’s efforts reveal that McCloskey was a bribe-taker, the thirst for revenge in the police hearts subsides and pressure from the police is terminated. But the five families continue to struggle with the Corleone family: they terrorize bookmakers, shoot ordinary rank-and-file employees, entice people. The Corleone family turns to martial law. Don, despite his condition, is transported from the hospital home, under reliable protection. Freddie is sent to Las Vegas – to come to himself and get acquainted with the situation in the casinos there. Sonny manages the affairs of the family – and not in the best way. In a senseless and bloody war with five families, he manages to win a series of separate victories, but the family loses people and incomes, and the end is not visible. I had to cover a few advantageous bookmaker points, and Carlo Rizzi, left behind in such a way out of business, takes out anger on his wife: once he beat her so that Connie calls Sonny and asks her to take her home. Having lost his head from rage, Sonny rushes to intercede for his sister, is ambushed, and he is killed.
Don Corleone is forced to leave the hospital bed and stand at the head of the family. To everyone’s surprise, he convokes all the families of New York and family syndicates from all over the country to a meeting where he comes forward with a proposal of peace. He even agrees to do drugs, but with one condition – his son Michael will not cause any harm. The world is concluded. And only Hagen realizes that the Godfather has far-reaching plans and today’s retreat – only a tactical maneuver.
Michael in Sicily meets a beautiful girl and marries. But his happiness was short-lived – the family Barzini, from the very beginning standing behind the backs of Solozzo and Tattalya, with the hands of the traitor Fabrizio arranges an explosion in the car of Michael. Michael accidentally survived, but his wife is dying… Back in America, Michael expresses the desire to become a real son of his father and work with him.
It takes three years. Michael marries an American Kay Adams, who was waiting for him during the exile. Under the leadership of Heigen and Don, he is diligently studying the family business. Like his father, Michael prefers to act not from a position of strength, but from a position of mind and resourcefulness. They plan to move business operations to Nevada, completely moving there to a legal position. But at the same time they are developing plans for revenge against the Barzini-Tattalya alliance. Partly retiring, the Don appoints Michael as his successor, so that in a year he becomes a full-fledged Godfather…
But suddenly Don Corleone dies, after his death Barzini and Tattalla violate the peace treaty and try to kill Michael, using the betrayal of Tessio. But Michael proves that his father’s choice was correct. They kill Fabrice. The heads of the families of Barzini and Tattalya are killed. They kill Tessio. Kill Carlo Rizzi, who, as it turned out, on the day of the murder Sonny specially beat his wife on the orders of Barzini.
Upon learning of Carlo’s death, Connie rushes to Michael with reproaches. And although Michael denies everything, Kay suddenly realizes that her husband is a murderer. In horror she takes the children and leaves for her parents.
A week later, she comes to Hagen. They have a terrible conversation: Tom describes Kay the world that Michael has been hiding from her all this time, a world where you can not forgive, a world where you have to forget about your attachments. “If Michael finds out what I’ve been telling you about here, it’s over,” he concludes, “there are only three people in the world that he will not do harm, you and the children.”
Kay returns to her husband. Soon they move to Nevada. Hagen and Freddie work for Michael, Connie remarries. Clementz is allowed to leave Corleone and establish his own family syndicate. Things are going well, the primacy of the Corleone family is unshakable.
Every morning Kay goes with the mother-in-law to the church. Both women earnestly pray for the salvation of the souls of their husbands – two dons, two godparents…