Monday, June 13, 2011

The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani~★★★

Author: Christopher Castellani
Title: The Saint of Lost Things
Release Date: October 3rd, 2006
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "It is 1953 in the tight-knit Italian neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware. In the shadow of St. Anthony's Church, named for the patron saint of lost things, lives the Grasso family. Young Maddalena, a seamstress pregnant with her first child, misses the rolling hills and olive groves of the small Italian town where she was born and longs for her sisters and her mother and father---all so distant, so far away from America. Maddalena's mercurial husband, Antonio, feels lucky to be in the land of opportunity and dreams of opening his own restaurant, until he becomes unwittingly embroiled in his friends' vengeful plot against a neighbor. 
Down the street from the Grassos lives Giulio Fabbri, a shy accordion player, still single at forty, who's lost his beloved parents and has dreams of his own: to leave the shelter of his childhood home and reinvent himself.
When Maddalena falls dangerously ill and Antonio's and Giulio's faith is challenged, the prayers of these troubled but steadfast people are heard, and fate and circumstances conspire to answer them in unforeseeable ways. 
With great affection and a profound understanding of human frailty and perseverance, Christopher Castellani brings to life a bittersweet time when the world seemed more intimate and knowable, and the American Dream simpler, noble, and within reach."

Taryn's Review: I wish I would have known this book was a sequel before I read it. I read the blurb about the author and noticed he was referenced for his "award-winning...A Kiss from Maddalena." Maddalena was the main character of this book, so I was inclined to believe this book might be a sequel, but the book jacket didn't indicate it was, so I read it anyway.

While I liked the book, it moved really slowly for me. During my reading, I could feel that there was a back story to Maddalena that I wasn't understanding, which made me frustrated that it wasn't more clear this was the 2nd book in the series.

I did not understand why Giulio (who was Julian most of the jacket fail) was such a part of this story. Again, this could have been lost on me because I didn't read the first book. If he wasn't in that book, then I'm not sure if Castellani is planning a 3rd book with Julian as a primary character and will be adding more depth to him. I kept wondering, "Why is Julian such a large part of this book? Why doesn't he sing? Why does Maddalena like him? Is there something I am supposed to know about him that I don't?"

I think the book was fascinating as far as giving a glimpse into the life of an immigrant family during the 1950s, especially in a place like Wilmington. Maddalena and Antonio most likely had a rather "typical" relationship for their situation, which was sad but important to realize. Antonio was not likable very often and his feelings were confusing for me to understand. I'm not sure if the author alluded to an inappropriate relationship Antonio had with a woman while married or if he meant that Antonio had a history with the girl before he married Maddalena. Was this explained in the first book? I don't know.

I wouldn't say not to read this book, but I would suggest reading A Kiss from Maddalena first. I had to give the book 3 stars because of the confusion I felt while reading the book. Whether this was the publisher's fault for not marketing this as a sequel or the author for thinking anyone could pick up this book and clearly connect to it without reading the first is not known by me. Castellani is a good writer and I loved his Italian perspective, so I'd read him again, but hopefully the author or publisher can do a better job guiding the reader as to what book they should begin with.

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