The Saint of Lost Things

The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani

A family of Italian immigrants puts down roots in 1950's New York City. When Maddelena agreed to leave her village and her family to marry Antonio and go with him to America, she had no idea how hard it would be. She missed her family and the boy she'd been in love with, but having made her choice she set her mind to creating a life for herself in a new country with Antonio's family. 

Their marriage is far from perfect, but they are committed to staying together. Antonio himself isn't faithful, but he becomes wildly jealous when his wife finally becomes pregnant and he thinks it may not be his child. He's wrong, and deep down he knows it, but he punishes her anyway, with silence, until the baby is born. He's not a terribly likeable character. 

I'd have liked Maddelena more if she'd been a little more assertive. Antonio's self-centeredness was something she simply accepted because eventually he'd come to his senses and tell her again how much he loved her. I guess because he never was the love of her life she could stay detached on some level. I discovered only after I'd finished this one that a previous book told Maddelena's earlier story. If I'd read that first I might have understood her better. 

There is one character I found more appealing. Guilio Fabbri is 40, unmarried, unemployed, and grieving the loss of the parents who had been the center of his world. There's something authentic in his character that makes you want good things to happen to him. His developing friendship with Maddelena will give him the confidence to begin to move out into the world and when he does he becomes, for me, the heart of the story.   

This is a book about the ups and downs of marriage and the subtle interactions of family and friends in everyday living. There's not a lot of plot - the element of racism comes in when Antonio's family try to drive out a black family who move into their white-Italian neighbourhood, and there's some tension when Maddelena goes into a coma after the birth of their daughter. Even the ending is undramatic, just a quiet settling down of problems and a generally satisfying outlook for most of the characters. 

It was entertaining and I did enjoy the reading of it, but can't say it's a favourite. 


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