A Kiss from Maddalena

( 22 )

Overview

"It is the spring of 1943, and most of the young men of the village of Santa Cecilia have gone to war. For Vito Leone, time is short. A few months shy of the draft, he has begun to woo the beautiful Maddalena Piccinelli, the daughter of the town's most powerful family. No matter that her parents dismiss him as a mammoni, a mama's boy, or that her older sister has publicly called him a fool. Even his best friend thinks he's in over his head. But Maddalena sees the romantic side of Vito, his humor and tenderness. As the war intensifies, so do her
... See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (50) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $7.56   
  • Used (48) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$7.56
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(160)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
Ships same day. Very slight shelf wear. Tracking Included.

Ships from: Hudsonville, MI

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$50.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(146)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
A Kiss from Maddalena

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price
(Save 26%)$14.95 List Price

Overview

"It is the spring of 1943, and most of the young men of the village of Santa Cecilia have gone to war. For Vito Leone, time is short. A few months shy of the draft, he has begun to woo the beautiful Maddalena Piccinelli, the daughter of the town's most powerful family. No matter that her parents dismiss him as a mammoni, a mama's boy, or that her older sister has publicly called him a fool. Even his best friend thinks he's in over his head. But Maddalena sees the romantic side of Vito, his humor and tenderness. As the war intensifies, so do her feelings toward her unlikely suitor." When the Italians surrender to the Allies and the retreating German soldiers invade Santa Cecilia, everyone flees except Vito and his mother. Alone amidst the ruins of his beloved village, Vito, with ingenuity and boundless devotion, comes up with the perfect plan to prove himself deserving of Maddalena. The Piccinellis and the rest of the villagers return home after the war to find that Vito has made some surprising changes. Now, only one man - a visitor from America - stands in his way, and Maddalena is faced with an impossible choice.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stendhal, in his book On Love, claimed that Italy was the home of passionate love because Italians take reverie as seriously as politics. Castellani, a young American writer, takes the Stendhalian viewpoint in this charming first novel. Vito Leone is a 17-year-old in the Italian village of Santa Cecilia in 1943, one of the few males who have not gone off to war. Vito is only intermittently aware of the fighting, since his attention is absorbed by the village beauty, Maddalena Picinelli. Vito is the village clown, living alone with his mother, Concetta, who suffers from a chronic mental disorder. Despite these circumstances, Maddalena reciprocates Vito's love. On the night that the Germans come through Santa Cecilia, blowing up buildings, Maddalena nearly decides to give herself to Vito, but to scare Maddalena into chastity, Carolina, Maddalena's shrewd sister, tells her of a young village woman who recently died in childbirth. The Picinellis flee to the countryside for the duration of the war, while Vito, in the mostly deserted village, cares for his mother. After the Germans nearly destroy the Picinelli house, Vito rebuilds it. When the Picinellis return to Santa Cecilia, they are surprised to find their house preserved, but they want to bestow Maddalena upon a prosperous Italian-American, Antonio Grasso. Will she sacrifice Vito for her family? Vito, Maddalena and Carolina are strong characters, and Castellani creates a velvety, cinematic atmosphere-a touch clich d, but rich and effective nonetheless. Like a Verdi opera, Castellani's story creates a certain grandeur out of its own lightness. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
An unusual love story from beginning to end, between the prettiest girl in town, Maddalena Piccinelli, and one of the last remaining young men—skinny, foolish, Vito Leone. The story begins in a small village in Italy in 1943, when the war was felt mostly as a hungry maw of young men who disappeared into the army. Vito knows his next birthday will force him away from his sick mother who depends on him, but also away from the girl he has had a crush on forever. When Italy changes sides in the war, everything changes. Just when Vito and Maddalena grow close, they must part. This is a beautifully written, perfectly flavored story that captures the times and the people of rural Italy during WW II in a very personal way. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Penguin, Berkley, 339p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
In 1945 Italy, in a remote mountain village of semiliterate peasants, Vito nurtures an initially unrequited affection for beautiful Maddalena, daughter of the village's leading family. The young women think only of God and kisses, not always in that order, while most of the young men are away fighting a war they do not understand. Even the privileged men who listen to the radio have only a faint understanding of world events and do not know whether they are for or against Mussolini and whether the Germans or the Allies will kill or protect them. The central question, though, is whether Vito is "good enough" for Maddalena, defined as having money and aspirations. Unfortunately, the writing in this not entirely auspicious debut could have used editorial help, as when Vito is deemed "friendless" and "without friends" in the same sentence. The action verbs used to describe heartbreaking situations often make them cartoonlike, and the characters sometimes sound like contemporary Brooklynites. This may be an accurate depiction of Italian villagers of the period, but it is not a flattering one. For comprehensive collections of World War II fiction.-Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lyrical first outing about star-crossed love in southern Italy in the 1940s. In May 1943, Vito Leone is just a few months shy of his 18th birthday, when he'll be drafted into the army like all the other young men whose absence torments the villagers of Santa Cecilia. They don't question the war's purpose (the author pulls no punches about Italians' support for Mussolini, and even Hitler), but people in the impoverished Abruzzo region have few illusions about their subordinate and generally unlucky place in the scheme of things. The parents of beautiful Maddalena Picinelli dream of a better life for their daughter and don't appreciate Vito's attentions, though Maddalena, 16, is intrigued by his passion. A romance unfolds amid a beautiful rendering of provincial life, with the unchanging natural rhythms and structured society that seem comforting to Maddalena but stultifying to her fiery sister Carolina. When Italy surrenders in the fall of 1943, most villagers, including the Picinellis, flee the vengefully retreating Germans, but Vito is trapped in Santa Cecilia with his ailing mother. He survives and even restores the Picinellis' ruined house before they return at war's end, but Maddalena's parents intend her for a wealthier husband. She loves Vito, sort of, but "had the power to control none of it" and felt that "she played such a small part in her own life." This is a passivity that makes Maddalena increasingly irritating, especially since it's never been terribly clear why she's so special except that other people keep declaring that she is. That may be the point, as the closing chapters here amply demonstrate that Maddalena lacks strength to resist other people's plans and doesn'treally deserve Vito. The beautiful final paragraph, aching with tenderness and regret, would be even more moving if she'd been a more engaging character to begin with. Not perfect, but Castellani's faultless reproduction of a distant time and place, his elegant, eloquent prose, and his warm sympathy mark him as a talent to watch.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425196427
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Castellani

Christopher Castellani has published two previous novels with Algonquin—A Kiss from Maddalena, which won the Massachusetts Books Award for Fiction; and The Saint of Lost Things. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, the Boston-based non-profit creative writing center. Author website: www.christopher castellani.com

Good To Know

In our interview with Castellani, he shared some fun facts about himself and his favorite interests:

"It's no secret that my parents -- who are Italian immigrants -- are the inspiration for virtually all of my work. They not only taught me the power of stories, but also the importance of preserving them."

"My first job was as a caddy at a swanky country club. My dad used to drop me off at 7:00 a.m. every morning, and I'd wait in the caddyshack, praying no one would pick me. (I was an eleven-year-old too scrawny to carry the bag for 18 holes, and I knew nothing about golf). If no one picked me by 8:00 a.m., I'd hit the vending machines in the clubhouse, sit under a pine tree near the 3rd tee, read Agatha Christie mysteries, and eat candy until my dad picked me up at noon. I made no money, but it was probably my happiest summer."

"As is true of most writers I know, my life is quite ordinary. I write most mornings from 8:00-12:00, work two or three other jobs in the afternoon to make money, hope someone invites me out to dinner (there's very little I wouldn't do for a free meal; it doesn't even have to be a nice restaurant), then spend the evening writing email, reading or watching old sitcoms or the Game Show network. Ah, the glamour!"

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Arlington, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1972
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wilmington, Delaware
    1. Education:
      B.A., Swarthmore College, 1994; M.A./A.B.D., Tufts University, 1998; M.A., Boston University, 1999

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

1 From the air, the village of Santa Cecilia appears in the shape of a woman lying down. If you’d been a pilot flying over it—on your way to Germany or Africa or some other place to drop bombs—you’d have noticed how the main road forms a kind of spine leading to a round piazza, where green trees fan out like hair over the hills, and four narrow roads grow into limbs at both ends. One of the woman’s arms cradles a cluster of white stone houses; the other stretches lazily into fields, in a way that suggests she is resting. Her legs straddle farms and orchards and a few scattered vineyards. She bends her knee at a curve just before an olive grove. If you’d been a pilot—young, maybe, one of the thousands of boys soaring over every week—you’d have had a woman’s figure on your mind anyway, and you’d have longed to land in this place, to hide with her from Hitler and Russia and the passo romano, and to lose yourself in the parts of her body you can only see up close.

If you had come early on this spring afternoon, you’d have found Maddalena Piccinelli, not yet a woman but close enough, standing on the terrace above her family’s store. This is as high above her village as a girl can expect to get, and many years will go by before someone describes its shape to her. Today, though, she watches something much more interesting: Vito Leone, a boy she’s grown up with, celebrating the first victory of his life. All winter he’d talked big about building a bicycle from scraps he found lying around three towns, and no one believed he could do it, not even his own crazy mother. But now here he came, pedaling it up the main street of Santa Cecilia for all to admire.

"Free rides!" he shouted. "Come to the olive grove for free rides!"

Maddalena rested her forearms on the iron railing. Vito wobbled toward her on a heap of rattling metal that seemed about to burst. He’d painted every inch of it bright silver, from the handlebars to the rubber tires. The front wheel was nearly twice the size of the back, but the two did turn together, and Vito did flash the proudest of smiles when he noticed her.

"You’re coming, right?" he asked without stopping.

"Depends," she said.

"I made this for you," he said. "Believe me or not. It’ll go to waste if you don’t come." Still he rode past her toward the spring and the upper half of the village, toward the twenty other girls her age. "Free rides!" he started again.

Shutters smacked open against the fronts of houses. Fiorella Puzo, three doors down, sat up from her place on the roof, where she was taking a sunbath. She climbed into her bedroom window and in seconds emerged fully dressed on the street, smoothing her skirt and rushing toward the olive grove.

He must have made it just for her, too, thought Maddalena.

She had turned sixteen that month, almost two full years after Vito, but they were in the same grade. For a boy, he’d never had much luck. He was short for his age, and skinny in the arms. No hair grew on his face. He had a long and oval head like a peanut, a shape that Maddalena, from her seat behind him in school, found more comical than ugly. He was always spilling ink on his fingers, then forgetting and rubbing it on his temples when he got nervous. He told long, complicated jokes, sometimes funny ones, and once someone laughed no one could stop him from telling another. Other than that he was like most boys, best at standing around for hours in his pressed white shirt, smoking and whistling at girls. At least now he had the bike to show for his time.

Maddalena went inside to grab her shawl. It was too warm for it, but the pinks and blues matched the flower pattern on her dress, and she liked that she had to hold it clasped at her neck to keep it on. It made her look more dignified than if she let her arms swing loose at her sides. She’d learned from her mother, who’d grown up in Rome and seen real operas, that even though Santa Cecilia was a tiny village at the top of a mountain, it was still a stage where the world could see her.

You could never mistake Maddalena, the youngest, for one of her sisters. Yes, she had the same full lips, and the same nose, a bit too long and slightly rounded at the tip. Like the older Piccinelli girls, she was tall, with slim legs and hips just broad enough to catch the fall of her dress. But no Piccinelli, as far back as anyone could remember, had hair like hers—the color of straw, with streaks of white blond. It both thrilled and embarrassed her, and so conflicted was she about it that in public she wore the long curls pulled tightly back, secured with a handful of pins. She arranged it this way now, and washed her face with the kettle water, still warm from the morning coffee.

She found her sister Carolina in the dining room where she’d left her, sitting on the long table and digging under her toenails with a twig. "Well?" Carolina said. "How’s it look?"

"No worse than that," said Maddalena, pointing to the pile of fuzz she’d cleaned from between her toes. "But it works. You have to admire him a little."

"Not too much," said Carolina. "When he builds a car or a tank, then maybe."

"A bike isn’t hard?"

"He’ll make like it was harder than it was, that’s for sure," Carolina said. "I know him. He’ll show us his scars." She jumped down from the table and brushed the mess she’d made onto the floor. "I’m riding first," she said, "before the thing cracks in two."

Carolina was Vito’s age and slightly taller than Maddalena, with wider shoulders and more womanly breasts. She wore her hair long, styling it only when her mother ordered her. She had dark eyes that dared you to step closer. Vito was a little bit scared of her, and sometimes Maddalena was, too.

"Fiorella’s already halfway there," Maddalena said.

"Fiorella’s always halfway there."

They ran down the marble steps out of the house. Their two older sisters, Celestina and Teresa, twins, stood huddled with a few of their friends against the front wall of the store. They’d turned twenty this Christmas, and since then had had no time for the teenaged sisters they called "pretty babies." If she had wanted to be laughed at, Maddalena would have asked them to come along.

They ran past Guglierma Lunga, sitting as always on the crumbling steps outside her house, hungry for gossip. They waved without a buongiorno, afraid the old lady would make them stop and talk and sit through some horrible prediction about a girl getting killed on a homemade bike. They passed the butcher’s house, their dead Zìo Anzio’s, the barber’s, and the empty tabaccheria. When they turned the corner and saw the crowd at the olive grove, they slowed down.

There must have been fifteen girls in a circle around Vito, pulling at his shirt and begging. Fiorella knelt at his feet. Vito held his arms out in front of him, fanning them slowly up and down like Mussolini.

"Quiet!" he said, with a big grin. "Pazzi! You’re all nuts." He spun around slowly. "I’m changing my mind as I speak."

"Changing your mind?" said Carolina, pushing through the pack of her groaning friends. "No way in the world!"

"I slave all winter," Vito said, "and everyone makes fun of me, especially you girls. Then I show up and everyone’s my best friend? I don’t think so. There has to be a price."

Maddalena took her place beside Luciana Campini, just a year older but already promised to Vito’s best friend, Buccio. Buccio sat on the grass a few yards from the group, guarding the bike. Paying little attention to Vito, he straightened the spokes and polished the frame with a rag. Maddalena watched him. The muscles in his arms pulsed as he rubbed the metal tire guard until it shone. In two months, he’d turn eighteen and get sent to fight the Russians. He’d end up like her brothers Maurizio and Giacomo, who’d left for the front more than five years ago, and who’d stopped sending letters or telegrams ten months later. There was a time when Maddalena believed they’d make it home with all the other boys the village no longer heard from. Now when she thought of them, their faces glowed in her mind like the pictures of saints on funeral cards. They lived and breathed somewhere, but in another world. Lately she caught herself thinking of Buccio and Vito this way, too, though Buccio still had until June and Vito three months after that.

"You asked us to come here, Vito," Carolina was saying. "We were at home minding our own business. You can’t take back your offer now."

"Did I know what animals you’d be?" he said. "No, I didn’t." He folded his arms and thought a moment. Everyone was quiet. "I’ll tell you this." He looked to both sides, the way he did in school when he was trying to cheat. "You can each have a free ride, but only"—he checked again—"only if you kiss me first."

"That doesn’t sound free to me," Carolina said.

"Take it or leave it," Vito said, shrugging. "To me it’s the same. I ask only for a little kiss. A little kiss isn’t much for all my hard work." "I agree," Luciana said. She broke from the circle and bounded toward Vito. She clasped her hands behind her back and leaned in toward his chest. She brushed the underside of his chin with her lips, as if she were sucking up spilled wine. The girls howled.

Luciana turned around and held out her arms. "It wasn’t so bad," she said. She winked at Carolina. Then, to Vito: "I’m first now, right?" "New rule," said Vito. "The kiss must be on the lips, or a long one on the cheek."

"Do I have to do it again?" Luciana asked.

Buccio, the fidanzato, suddenly appeared beside her. Vito looked at him. "Next time," he said. "I don’t mind," said Luciana.

"I think once was enough," Buccio said.

"I’m still first, though?" Luciana asked Vito, not embarrassed at all.

"Yes, yes," he said. "But not until I show you all how to use the bike." He turned to the crowd and spoke louder. "This is a special vehicle, you know, with special brakes and a special seat. I fashioned it in the cold winter months, sealed it with my own blood." He pointed to the cuts on his ?ngers.

"Gesù mio," said Carolina, and smiled at her sister.

"Listen to me," Vito said. "I’ll give you all a lesson, a group lesson, one only. You watch me the first time and then Luciana will ride, and while she’s on it we can do more kissing. No time to waste. Follow me!"

He broke through the pack and brushed Maddalena’s shoulder as he passed. She still held her shawl to her neck, though her armpits were sweating. Leave it to a boy, she thought, to take something fun and make it dirty and complicated. Leave it to Vito Leone to finally do something right, then mess it up with his big silly talk. She wasn’t about to throw away her first kiss for this boy, or risk her father’s or brother’s finding out—not for ten rides down the hill. I only kiss people who deserve it, she told herself and, as she watched the girls fight to form a line behind Vito, decided this was what she would say when he asked her to pay his price. It was a good answer; it would stop him cold; it would get a good laugh.

Vito marched through the olive grove like an invader. He led everyone down the main road, which became a steep and broad hill, perfect for bike rides. The hill split the grove in half, dividing it into two regions the girls named East and West Olive. One of the boys was always arguing that what the girls called West Olive was really East, or, worse, that East was really South or North. But Maddalena thought it sounded right the way it was, and that it was bad luck to change names after all these years.

Boys gathered in the gorge and the woods behind the spring, but the olive grove had been girl country since their nonni were young. Girls made up plays here, practiced dance routines, and performed shows for each other on the stage in West Olive, which was really just a mound of grass. This was where Maddalena did her famous imitations of Guglierma Lunga, Caldostano the drunk, and other misfits of the village. Fiorella sang Christmas songs whatever the season, and Luciana told long, sexy stories about German soldiers without blushing, but Maddalena always got the loudest applause.

In the far corner of West Olive, the trees stood so close together that the leaves made a second sky. Girls sat in circles under it and complained about their mothers. They gossiped about whoever showed up late or left early. When the army trucks swallowed up their brothers and boyfriends and young fathers, they came here to forget or cry or admit I’m glad he’s gone. After they turned twenty, they found somewhere else to talk—they got married, or they leaned against the front walls of stores and acted smart—but until then, the olive grove was the center of their world.

The road flattened at the bottom of the hill, by the sign that announced the exit from Santa Cecilia on one side and the entrance on the other. If Vito kept walking out of the village, he’d lead them all to Avezzano in an hour, Rome in a day. Instead he propped the bike against the sign and waited for the girls to pay attention. The Santa Ceciliese took pride in this road Vito now commanded. They celebrated it like a saint, all because one day three years ago a radio announcer told them it was one of the widest in Italy. It was so wide, in fact, this road that seemed so little, that the government made it a main artery for German tanks to drive south through the country. The announcer had listed all the towns the tanks would pass through, and when the words Santa Cecilia left his lips, Maddalena swore that Hitler himself could hear the cheers. Like everyone else, she’d hoped that soldiers coming through would mean money for the town and the store, but soon she came to fear these men. She avoided listening to the one o’clock news, afraid to hear stories of the approaching war front, of untrained sons and fathers and husbands becoming an Italian army overnight, of Axis planes getting shot down over cities as close as Naples. Twice a day, when the tanks rumbled through the town, she found herself unable to breathe. While the ground shook, the chandeliers swayed, and the slow parade of blond soldiers shouted and lifted their guns in the air, she waited for the world to end. Then the planes would come, screaming overhead by the thousands, and she’d run to find and grab onto her mother until they passed.

"I’m next," Carolina said. She bumped Maddalena with her hip. "You awake? I’m after Luciana. Don’t even try to get ahead of me."

"Don’t worry," Maddalena said. She folded her arms. "I’m not interested."

"There’s nothing to be scared of," Carolina said.

"Who said I was scared?"

"Listen," Carolina whispered. "I talked to Luciana." She cupped one hand behind Maddalena’s ear and whispered into it. "She told me that kissing Vito was like rubbing her lips against a peach. She said his skin is softer than a girl’s."

Maddalena laughed. "Still."

"What’s so funny?" Vito said, smiling at them. "Are you telling jokes, Signorina Piccinelli?"

"Mind your own business," Carolina said. She pinched Maddalena’s arm and turned to the crowd. "Can everyone shut up, please? I want to ride this jalopy before I’m fifty, and Vito still needs to play teacher for us."

"Grazie," said Vito. He gripped the bike and wheeled it to the center of the circle. "First I should tell you how I made this."

"We don’t care!" Carolina said. "We only care if it works."

"That’s what I’m trying to explain," Vito said. "Listen. One day, Buccio and I skipped school. We found a barn, way in the middle of nowhere, in the fields outside Broccostella. In the barn was this bike, smashed up in three big pieces, like it was hit by a tank or something, and maybe it was. The chain was rusted, and it was missing this half of the frame." He pointed to the bar between the seat and the back wheel. It was thicker than the other pieces. "And the front wheel, and one side of the handlebars, and the seat, all missing." He stopped. "And the brakes didn’t work."

"It was a pile of shit," Buccio said.

"It was," said Vito. "I told Buccio, ‘Watch me turn this pile of shit into gold,’ and I did. I looked everywhere for pieces to fill it in. The frame here and the handlebars are both from an old stove my father kept under the house. The front wheel I found in the graveyard, no air in it at all. I blew into it myself through a little hole, then sealed it with glue. I banged out the rest of the body to straighten it, and fit the new wheel on the front. I filled all the holes in the metal and the rubber with the glue, and soaked the chain in grease. All I had left was the seat, and I have to say that took me a long time. Finally I got a chunk of wood, and carved it until it fit inside the hole in the frame. I wrapped the top part in rags, because of the splinters, and to make it easier on the culo." He slapped his behind. "But still, it’s not very comfortable. That much I admit."

"And what happened to the brakes?" Luciana asked.

"That’s the important part," Vito said. He held up one finger the way their teacher, Signora Grasso, did. "That’s the part I have to show you." He eased himself onto the seat and started pedaling up the hill. He couldn’t just walk it like a normal person. He weaved and strained until he reached the top, and when he turned around, his face was flushed. "I recommend you girls walk up when it’s your turn," he said.

Carolina rolled her eyes.

"Now watch me, and when it’s your turn, do what I do," Vito called down. "When I hit the grass at the bottom of the hill, I’m going to turn the handlebars as hard as I can to the left, to get the speed out. Then, I’ll let go and hop off the bike. Just hop off, like a rabbit. Not too high, or you’ll kill yourself. Don’t try to stop with your feet or you’ll trip. And don’t worry about the ground; me and Buccio and Marco and everybody spent all yesterday cleaning the stones out of the grass. Understand?"

"It’s a death machine," Maddalena said.

"I’m still going," said Carolina.

They watched him. The bike popped and jumped over the rocky hill so roughly that Vito’s cheeks jiggled. His eyes got wide and scared, and his shirt flew up, flashing his pale, sunken stomach. When he reached the grass, he turned fast, released his grip from the handlebars, and launched himself into the air. He landed safely on his back, rolled a few times, then came up all smiles. He wiped dirt from his hands with a few hard slaps. The bike, still in one piece, lay upturned a few yards from him, its back wheel spinning. Luciana ran and flipped it right side up. "I got it," she said. "I watched really close. Here I go." She ran it up the hill and barely turned around before she hopped on the seat, screamed "Ouch!" and headed down. She flew toward them and, midway, lifted her hands high and waved. Vito crawled out of the way when she turned, expertly, at the last possible second, onto the patch of grass. Then she tumbled off the bike. "No problem!" she said, and exhaled all the air from her lungs. "You’re next, Carolina."

Carolina gave Vito a quick peck on the cheek, then rode. After her, Fiorella. Then a girl named Silvia who showed up from Broccostella with her cousin. Then Ada Lupo, the dentist’s daughter, and Nunzia Vattilana, Buccio’s sloe-eyed sister. No one seemed to mind giving Vito what he wanted. Eventually, after every girl had had a turn, he came for Maddalena.

"Well?" he said. He lowered his voice. "You remember what I told you today? Who I made this for?" He leaned in and tilted his right cheek upward. "Do I have the honor?"

It rolled off her tongue perfectly, like a prayer: "I only kiss people who deserve it," she said, loud enough for everyone to hear. As soon as she said it, she turned and, feeling triumphant, climbed the hill on foot.

The crowd howled again, this time in her honor. She walked slowly so some of the girls—Carolina, at least—could catch up, but halfway up the hill she found she was walking alone. She heard Luciana say, "Me again then! Me!" and one of the boys whine, "When’s our chance?" but there were no shadows or crunching footsteps behind her. No one called out, "Stop, Maddalena! Come back!" As she walked toward her house, she closed her eyes and wished for the rush of wind against her face, for the sudden plunge, for the shawl she was sweating under to unclasp and float off her shoulders into the air.

One by one that spring, every girl in the village—even Maddalena’s older sisters Teresa and Celestina—pressed her lips to Vito Leone’s hairless cheek. Again and again Vito asked Maddalena if she’d changed her mind, and again and again she repeated that same answer.

"Am I that terrible?" Vito would ask.

"Maybe," she’d say.

It wasn’t him, though, not after a while. It was a matter of pride, but she couldn’t let him know that. Instead she recited for him the story of Saint Cecilia. She was a real person a thousand years ago, she reminded him, who let herself suffocate from smoke and get struck with an ax rather than submit to the soldiers pounding at her front door. They were trying to get her to deny God, but Cecilia wouldn’t let anyone force her to do what she didn’t want to do. And neither would Maddalena, no matter how small that something was.

"You’d rather get struck with an ax than kiss me," was Vito’s response.

"That’s not what I said."

"I must be that terrible," he said.

All that spring Maddalena watched Vito get more expensive. He charged two kisses to get from the olive grove to the church, and one on the lips to ride the length of all three village streets. Sometime near the end of May, just as school was ending for the summer, Luciana kept the bike overnight, and everyone wondered what she’d had to pay for that.

"Two on the cheek," she said.

They were huddled in a circle in the cool darkness of the olive grove, all of them who mattered: Maddalena, Carolina, Fiorella, Ada Lupo, Clara Marcelli, and Luciana.

"That’s it?"

"Well, then a real one on the lips," Luciana said. "With this!" She stuck out her tongue.

"So elegant," said Carolina.

"Does Buccio know?" Maddalena asked. She sat half in, half out of the circle, stretching her legs and pulling up grass with her toes.

"It was for Buccio," Luciana said, waving her away. "No, I didn’t tell him. Why should I? I did it for both of us. We snuck out of the house in the middle of the night and rode the bike out to that barn, where they found it. I sat on the handlebars the whole way, with Buccio driving like a maniac. It was freezing."

They looked at her.

"What?" she said, as if she did this every night.

"You slept there?" asked Ada. "Together?"

"If you have to know," Luciana said, "then no. We didn’t sleep very much." She rubbed her arms as though she were still cold and blinked. To Maddalena she said, "Don’t stare at me like that."

"I’m not staring," said Maddalena, though she was.

"Buccio’s already eighteen. By the end of the month, maybe sooner, he’ll be in Russia." She kept her head down. "We’re engaged, more than engaged, really. I cook for both families every night. We might even get married before he leaves. What are we waiting for? When he comes home in a box?"

Slowly Maddalena rubbed the middle of her forehead, then under her chin, then both shoulders—a long, stealthy sign of the cross. Luciana noticed. "This one!" she said. "God was the last thing I thought of." She searched the other girls’ faces. "What if I get pregnant? What if my clothes get dirty? What if my father finds us? How will I look at myself the next day? That’s what I worried about. God will come later, I guess."

"Maddalena would worry about all of it," Fiorella said. "She can’t even kiss Vito Leone on the cheek. I think that says it all. Doesn’t it, girls?"

"It’s fine with me," said Ada. "I mean, one girl less means more rides for us, right? But really, Maddalena, when are you going to grow up?"

"She’s right," said Fiorella. "It’s over in one second. You just smash your lips really tight together and let them touch his cheek. You don’t even feel anything."

"It’s not about the kiss," Maddalena started to say, but Luciana interrupted her.

"How are we talking about Maddalena," she asked, "after what I just told you?" She’d pulled her hair back over her ears and kept smoothing it with her palms. "Don’t you want to know how I feel? How it felt? How it is with Buccio and me now?"

Carolina shrugged. "I’m not biting my nails waiting for the story," she said.

"I am," said Fiorella.

"Me, too," said Ada.

Though Maddalena was the youngest of them by only a year, today it felt more like ten. For months she’d been making a big deal about one kiss, and here was Luciana, spreading her legs in a dark barn for a boy she hadn’t married yet. And why didn’t it impress Carolina? What had she done with boys already; what had any of them done? Maddalena hated having brought God into the group, like a child, when Luciana already had so much else to worry about.

"Buccio was nervous, too," she was saying.

Maddalena didn’t want to listen, not if Luciana was going to make herself sound like a puttana. But if she got up and left, they might never ask her back.

"He kept asking if I was all right, even though all we did for the first few hours was sit next to each other on the hay, not talking." She smiled, and now instead of keeping her head down, she looked out over the heads of the girls in front of her. "We kept most of our clothes on at first, it was so cold. Then we warmed up. I can’t say too much. All of a sudden it was happening, and Buccio moved very fast, and I was holding my breath, and the pain was so bad at first I got tears in my eyes, and I almost told him to stop, but if you could have seen his face, so sweet and still nervous, you wouldn’t have wanted him to think he was hurting you, either."

"I don’t know about that," said Carolina.

"Well," said Luciana, "I do." She sat back on her hands and let her hair fall in front of her face, all confidence now. "And when it was over—it didn’t last very long, maybe five minutes?—we put our clothes back on, and we were both shaking, and he lay down next to me and put his arm over my chest, and I was about to fall asleep, but he started whispering to me this long story about his Zio Salvatore in Pescara, who lived on a boat, who had all these tattoos and scars on his body, whose wife died a year after they got married, and how Zio Salvatore pushed him off the back of his boat once for no reason, then laughed and laughed for the first time in years, even after he found out Buccio had smacked his leg on the motor and could barely swim anyway; I had no idea why he was telling me this, and I don’t think he knew either, but I liked hearing his voice. Then he started kissing me again, and we kissed and kissed, and then it started again right before we had to ride back, and this time"—she brushed the hair from her eyes—"it didn’t hurt that much at all."

Fiorella had her collar pulled up over her nose and held it there.

"You’re probably pregnant right now," Carolina said. "You should get married the minute you wake up tomorrow."

"You don’t get pregnant the first time," said Luciana. "That’s what Buccio’s brother told him. And even the second time there’s less of a chance."

"Well, you know more than I do," Carolina said, standing up. "Congratulations to you. Honestly. We’ll have to start calling you signora." Luciana didn’t answer. Ada whispered something in her ear.

When they broke through the olive trees onto the road, Maddalena asked, "Do you believe her?"

"Half of it, maybe," Carolina said. "The part about Buccio’s uncle I believe, and the cut leg. But we’ll see. Watch if she starts getting fat. I mean, fatter."

Maddalena laughed. She took Carolina’s hand in hers. Music was coming from the Al Di Là Café, and she wondered if there were soldiers inside. The owner, who’d closed up and moved to the coast after the war started, once held dances there, on the flagstone patio under strings of white lights, where bands from as far away as Florence came to play. The men wore suits; the women, pale-colored dresses that fanned out above their knees when they twirled. Kids danced and ran jumping among them for hours, then fell asleep on folding chairs set up around the floor. Now sometimes the German soldiers used the café as a free hotel, sleeping there overnight when they passed through. When the rooms filled up, they knocked on the doors of the houses next door and kicked out whoever lived there. They forced them to the street with guns, and sometimes the families ended up on the floor of the grocery.

"I miss the dances," Maddalena said.

"I miss ricotta," said Carolina.

"I miss the old Luciana." This was one of their games—listing all the things the war had taken away.

"I miss eggplant. How did the Nazis scare off eggplant?"

"I miss having the village to ourselves."

"I don’t know," Carolina said. She was always the first to interrupt the game. "I like the soldiers. They stop looking so mean if you smile at them a little. Ask Fiorella."

It was almost dark. They were nearing their house. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing," said Carolina.

"No, what?"

"I’m just making things up."

Later that night, they lay alongside each other on the bed. There was a cool breeze, but the air stayed warm enough for them not to need covers. Teresa and Celestina slept beside them, Celestina snoring as always.

Maddalena reached her arm over Carolina’s chest and pulled her closer. "Tomorrow," she said, "if the weather’s nice, I want to make a deal for the bike."

"Really?" Carolina asked. She flipped around to face her and propped herself up on her elbow. "Why now, all of a sudden?"

Maddalena thought a moment. "I don’t know."

"Well, I’m surprised," Carolina said. "Believe me, I don’t want Vito to think he beat you—I don’t want to see the satisfaction on his face—but there’s no reason you should miss the one fun thing in Santa Cecilia just because he made it."

"You have to do the talking," said Maddalena. "I still won’t kiss him, but I thought maybe I could cook him some fritelli, use that as a trade. That, or something else fair."

"He doesn’t want food," Carolina said, laughing. "You don’t hear his heart break every time you say he doesn’t deserve you." She took a curl of Maddalena’s hair between her fingers. "It’s hard to believe, but maybe he’s smart enough to see how special you are."

That Carolina believed this, that she more than once and without jealousy called Maddalena’s hair and eyes a blessing from God, amazed her. If she were Carolina, she would hate this Maddalena and everyone who fussed over her. Instead, Carolina adored her. She treated her like a church statue: too sacred and precious to disturb. She trusted only herself and Maddalena and made everyone else work to get along with her. No one disliked Carolina, as far as Maddalena knew—but no one rushed to throw his arms around her, either. Only Maddalena saw her many sides and, though they sometimes confused her, loved them all.

"I was thinking about when we were kids," Carolina said, "How Vito used to push you off the dance floor at the Al Di Là. Do you remember? You couldn’t be there for two seconds before he’d run out and knock you over. He didn’t do that to anybody else." "He did that to everyone," Maddalena said, but, when she thought back, maybe he didn’t. He used to make her so angry. Teresa would be trying to teach her the tango, and Vito would come stomping between them, making her lose her place. She’d even tripped over his leg once and torn her dress.

"Crazy must run in his family," Carolina said. "You almost have to feel sorry for him."

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
Reading groups in search of the aura of romance need look no further than this atmospheric novel of ill-fated love in wartime. A Kiss for Maddalena takes readers into the life of an Italian village in 1943, and author Christopher Castellani makes use of this evocative setting to stage a beguiling drama that explores the conflicts between family, history, and desire.

The story focuses on the evolving love affair of two young people in a community that has been half destroyed by the ravages of World War II. As Allied bombers make daily existence precarious, Vito Leone courts the beautiful Maddalena Piccinelli. Vito's transformation –- from the town fool and a famous "mammoni" into a suitor worthy of Maddalena's attentions -- makes this a story as much about maturity, courage, and fortitude as about romantic love. Reading groups will find that issues of manhood and the difficult choices brought on by the process of growing up are among the key themes the book makes available for discussion.

But if this is a book that uses a love story in order to raise more serious questions about destiny and personal choice, Castellani also offers a multiplicity of treats for book clubs to savor. The village of Santa Cecilia is rendered perfectly and populated with a host of powerfully imagined figures. The setting is so important in A Kiss for Maddalena that groups may find themselves comparing Castelliani's imaginary town to those in the films of Italian directors such as Federico Fellini or Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).

Finally, A Kiss for Maddalena raises, in the end, the question of how the mysterious promise of emigration to America affected the destinies of so many people after the tumult of the war. Castellani's tale is likely to provoke conversations about the immigrant histories in so many readers' families, evoking the myriad, fascinating stories that tell how and why so many of our forebears made choices like those faced in this bittersweet story. Reading groups may well want to talk about the Santa Cecilia in their own family album. Bill Tipper

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. Mothers are often the central figures in Italian families, and this novel features two pivotal mother-child relationships: Concetta-Vito and Chiara-Maddalena. What influence does each mother have on her child?

2. The book has been called a love story, but each character seems to have a different idea about love and marriage. How do those ideas affect their lives, especially the women?

3. At the beginning of the novel, Maddalena predicts that Vito "won't grow up" (p. 58), and Vito himself thinks that all he has to offer Maddalena is his humor. No one -- including his best friend and his mother -- sees him as a "catch." But what positive qualities does Vito display in these early scenes, and how do they eventually lead not only Maddalena but Carolina to fall in love with him?

4. The novel is divided into six sections, each titled with a mode of transportation: the bike, the tank, the carriage, the procession, the car, and the boat. Discuss the theme of transportation in the book, especially as it relates to the idea of campanilismo -- the Italian philosophy that warns you never to move so far away from home that you can’t hear the church bells ringing.

5. The theme of betrayal runs throughout A Kiss from Maddalena -- especially at the end -- but who is betraying whom?

6. "That doesn’t sound like love to me," Maddalena says (p. 274), when Chiara tells her of their plans to marry her off to Antonio Grasso. How do you reconcile Maddalena’s parents’ apparent cruelty with their devotion to her?

7. "Who loves you makes you cry; who doesn’t, makes you laugh," Chiara tells Maddalena (p. 274). What does this traditional Italian expression mean -- both in the context of the characters and in life?

8. Late in the novel (p. 314), Maddalena admits to feeling that she has little power, and that she "played such a small part in her own life." Do you agree with her statement? What is the primary force acting upon her to make her feel so powerless?

9. Carolina is arguably the most controversial character. How do you feel about her? Discuss her decisions in regard to herself and Maddalena, especially after the arrival of Antonio Grasso.

10. Answer the narrator’s question at the end of the novel: "Was [Maddalena] so different from any other bride? If you were a girl from Santa Cecilia, standing at this moment in the church beside a boy you’d known for twenty years, someone maybe who’d gone off to war and come back safely, would you know any better than Maddalena Piccinelli what waited for you in his house? Doesn’t every wife learn a new language and forget little by little the one she spoke when she was young?" (p. 333). How do Maddalena’s decisions at the end of the book affect your sympathy for her?

11.How does the town of Santa Cecilia change from the beginning of the book (May 1943) to the end of the book (October 1946)?

12.If you were going to write a sequel to this book, what would you want to see happen to the characters -- both in Italy and in the United States?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    A beautiful love story that twists and turns its way through a

    A beautiful love story that twists and turns its way through a war. The author had a wonderful way of making war-torn Italy seem tragically romantic and yet the story is surprisingly realistic in it's plotline.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    A lovely story

    I could not put the book down. It is such a wonderful story.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2003

    Heartbreaking and beautifully written

    This book kept me up late--I couldn't wait to discover what happened to Maddalena and Vito. Castellani's prose is elegant and vivid--you will feel transported to another world and another time. Castellani brings to life a whole village, Santa Cecilia, and each of the characters. I just hope there's a sequel in the works, because I want to spend time with these characters again.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2007

    Bellissimo/Outstanding

    I enjoyed reading this book. I felt the plotline was very intriguing espcecially the ending. It appears the author did his homework as the details are accurate. Having grown up in central Italy I found the the character's personality very true to life and it reminded me of life in small italian town.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2004

    Fabulous!!!

    What a wonderful story...just lovely

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2004

    Great story!

    This story is amazing, it really pulls you in and holds your heart... I wanted it to go on! I can't wait to see if there is a part 2. If you are interested in a great story, a romance, a story of stregnth and courage, of love and life, this is the book for you!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    I meet the author at the National Italian American Foundation

    This is an amazing book. I could not put it down. I met the author at the National Italian American Foundation Youth Retreat in August of 2003 and he said this is part one of a (hopefully) three part series. He has given me a passion for reading again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003

    Lyrical

    This is a delightful and magical debut novel. Typically a selfish reader, I paced myself in order to treasure each and every passage. The character development is beyond explanation. I adore this boo

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    Absolutely Wonderful!!!!!

    This book was so wonderful I didn't want to finish it. I want more!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    No

    Say no. Not worth a pennny. Don't fall for it. Its fake

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    A must read

    I couldn't put this book down - I highly recommend it to anyone! Beautiful writing where you forget you're reading and the story just flows off the pages. Although it is a love story there are (thankfully) no "steamy scenes (they would detract from the story anyway). Overall an excellent read that I wish had aa second (or third) part to it like a sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2004

    Great Debut

    I read this book twice; lyrical, romantic and definitely a good page-turner...I can't wait to read Castellani's next novel!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Gotta Read It!

    This is an amazing read! It was a touching, sweet story. I loved loved loved it :o)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Historical fiction. Loved it.

    Great read for those who enjoy fiction based on history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    This would make a nice movie

    Written with crisp, sparse prose this WWII romantic story of out of reach love will play like a classic movie in your head. Vito finds himself in love withthe youngest of four sisters from a family in his village that owns the village store. The family, having sent two sons to fight the war, deems Vito a mama's boy not fit for anyone, especially their most precious daughter. The war years send the family away to a relatives vineyard while Vito remains in the village, proving his worth caring for his ill mother and proving himself worthy of respect as a potential husband. What happens when the family returns to the village is not predictable.

    The ending happened more abruptly than I would like. The overall style of the novel was well written but the ending came in a summary narrative that seemed out of sync with the rest of the story. That's my only complaint.

    I would also recommend SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, CHOCOLAT, and TOMATO RHAPSODY if you like this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    Ral

    Good

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)