The Saint of Lost Things
Christopher Castellani’s second novel is a sequel to his first, A Kiss from Maddalena. Maddalena is now married to Antonio Grasso and living in Wilmington, Delaware, with Antonio and his parents, Antonio’s brother and sister-in-law, and their two children. After seven years of marriage, to everyone’s great disappointment, Maddalena has not yet had a baby, so she goes to work in a garment factory in Philadelphia. Antonio is a distant husband, and Maddalena longs for her family back in Italy and a child of her own. Antonio longs to be his own boss and own a restaurant. Their neighbor, middle-aged Guilio Fabbri, longs for his dead parents and isn’t sure how to create a life for himself.
While there is not much history woven into the story, the author does a good job of evoking an Italian-American community in the 1950s. The writing is lovely, as are the parts of the story dealing with Guilio and Maddalena’s friendship. However, the author’s characterization of Antonio just didn’t work for me and prevented me from enjoying the book. He may have been attempting to portray Antonio as a complex guy, but I saw someone with deep personality flaws and a nasty streak, which made it hard for me to like or root for him. His behavior throughout most of the book ranged from selfish to self-destructive and was often baffling. The conclusion did not seem to fit the story. The abrupt disappearance of Antonio’s personality flaws was puzzling, and I found myself annoyed that a character so unworthy of a happy ending got one.