The Possibilities of Sainthood

( 13 )

Overview

My name saint is famous for her purity. Her untouched-by-boys-ness.

I am also famous for this, by concidence.

Antonia Lucia Labella has two secrets: At fifteen, she’s still waiting for her first kiss, and she wants to be a saint. An official one. Unfortunately, the two events seem equally unlikely to happen, but it’s not for lack of trying. Every month for the last eight years, Antonia has proposed a new patron saint to the Vatican, bravely ...

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Overview

My name saint is famous for her purity. Her untouched-by-boys-ness.

I am also famous for this, by concidence.

Antonia Lucia Labella has two secrets: At fifteen, she’s still waiting for her first kiss, and she wants to be a saint. An official one. Unfortunately, the two events seem equally unlikely to happen, but it’s not for lack of trying. Every month for the last eight years, Antonia has proposed a new patron saint to the Vatican, bravely offering herself for the post. (So what if she’s not dead?) And she’s been praying for the attention of the tall, dark, and so good-looking Andy Rotellini way too long to admit. But then there’s her friend Michael McGinnis. Antonia doesn’t even know what to ask the saints to do about that situation. He’s kissed all the girls in school. Should she just get it over with and kiss Michael? Not a chance! Prospective saints never give up that easily.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Catholic schoolgirl Antonia Labella aims for canonization in this satisfying comedy.”—People magazine

“Hilarious and sweet.”—Miami Herald

“Behold: A rare bloom of a book, a genuflection toward the reality that today’s young can still be, more likely than not, good at heart. The Possibilities of Sainthood while never gloomy or dogmatic, is a literary work of mercy. Let us rejoice and be glad.”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

“With a satisfying ending, this novel about the realistic struggles of a chaste teen is a great addition to all collections.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Fresh and funny, this debut novel introduces a 15-year-old Catholic schoolgirl who experiences typical adolescent angst but has her own way of dealing with it: Antonia regularly petitions the saints. . . . Her e-mails to the Vatican (inhabited here by a pope open to the notion of women priests, gay marriage, etc.) add flair to a coming-of-age novel already vivid for its warm portrayal of urban Italian-American family life.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Like good homemade pasta, this satisfying novel balances lightness with substance and leaves teens wanting another serving.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“First-time novelist Freitas hops into the romance genre and brightens and heightens it by providing characters who are anything but run-of-the-mill.”—Booklist, Starred Review

“Donna Freitas has created a warmhearted story filled with humor, reflections and life. Antonia is amazing: very goal-orientated, determined, guided by her heart, a character who almost becomes a real friend. Freitas has a writing style that invites a reader to step into the story, to become part of it, and really feel the emotions and actions of her characters . . . a charming a witty book.”—Teenreads.com

“Clever and highly entertaining.”—Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

“Utterly fresh and funny, The Possibilities of Sainthood has heart. The voice of Antonia Lucia Labella is authentic and endearing. A contagious energy pulsates throughout, pulling us into a wholly believable world of burying fig trees, navigating girlhood, petitioning the Pope, and above all else—possibilities.”—Tanya Lee Stone, author of A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl

The Possibilities of Sainthood is like the kiss Antonia longs for: passionate, funny, truthful, and most of all, a pleasure.”—Emily Franklin, author of At Face Value and The Other Half of Me

“Donna Freitas’ lighthearted look at one adolescent’s journey through school, boys, and her religion is a slice of slightly irreligious, yet redemptive Catholic culture.”—ALAN Online Picks

“It’s one of those stories which displays real life.”—A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

“It’s funny and true to life.”—A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

“This book is super cool! It made me laugh, a lot.”—A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

Publishers Weekly

Fresh and funny, this debut novel introduces a 15-year-old Catholic schoolgirl who experiences typical adolescent angst but has her own way of dealing with it: Antonia regularly petitions the saints. Longing for her first kiss, she settles on St. Augustine as an intercessor ("Hark back to your wayward youth," she urges him in her Saint Diary), but when her prayer gets her more aggressive action than she bargained for, Antonia decides to fill the gap in hagiography and proposes herself as the patron saint of the first kiss. Her e-mails to the Vatican (inhabited here by a pope open to the notion of women priests, gay marriage, etc.) add flair to a coming-of-age novel already vivid for its warm portrayal of urban Italian-American family life. "My daughter looks like a puttana! What have I done to deserve this?" shrieks Antonia's widowed mother when she catches Antonia rolling up the waist of her school uniform (Antonia's list of the "Top Five Ways Italians Express Love" begins with "by being totally honest with each other, i.e., fighting"). While getting at serious issues, Freitas (author of Killing the Imposter God and a frequent contributor to PW) wins readers over with a beautifully sustained light touch. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Fifteen year old Antonia Lucia Labella lives with her mother and grandmother above the family market. Her father died in a car accident when Antonia was seven. At the moment she has two goals in life: to be the first living saint in Catholic history and to be kissed by "the love of her life," Andy Rotellini. In pursuit of sainthood, Antonia regularly petitions the Vatican with suggestions for new saints, such as the Patron Saint of Figs and Fig Trees. She chooses figs because it is her job every fall to prune, bend over, and wrap in cardboard and burlap the family's two fig trees so they'll make it through another Massachusetts winter. She keeps what she calls her "Saint Diaries," so that she can learn about and pray to her favorite saints. Unwittingly, Antonia begins healing neighbors with kisses. She gives little Billy Bruno a kiss on his elbow when he scrapes it and, by the next day, the wound is healed. She kisses arthritic Mrs. Bevalaqua on the forehead. That afternoon the old lady walks into the Labella Market all by herself. Antonia chafes at her mother's strict rules. While she's pining away for Andy, who starts to work at the market, Antonia brushes off the attentions of her friend Michael. In the end Antonia discovers Andy is a real jerk and that Michael is the boy for her. I really enjoyed this book. It is an amusing and well-written tale of a girl learning her place in the world. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
Mary Schmutz
Fifteen-oh-so-close-to-16-year-old Antonia has been patiently praying to the many saints and writing to the Vatican about being named a living saint herself. She wants to be appointed the Patron Saint of Figs and Fig Trees. She also wouldn't mind kissing Andy Rotellini on her way to becoming the first living saint. Antonia writes every day in her Saints Diary, including thoughts and prayers about Andy, her widowed mother, her grandmother dealing with early dementia, and her trials about the famous fig tree that brings in money for her family. Hunky Michael McGinnis tries to show Antonia how she is already a saint in the community. Freitas' novel showed the many trials that teens go through in finding their own identity. Antonia is a privately strong female character for young girls to live through vicariously. She falls in love every day but still maintains her own reputation like any saint. Reviewer: Mary Schmutz
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up

Antonia Lucia Labella, 15, strives to become the first living saint in the history of the Catholic Church. She petitions various saints for any number of reasons, big and small, serious and amusing. Every month for the last eight years, she has written to the Vatican with a new idea for a patron saint for everything from fig trees to kisses and offered herself as a candidate for the position. Her first request after the death of her father was to become the Patron Saint of Daddy's Heart. Each suggestion has been met with silence, but Antonia hasn't given up hope. The teen's life revolves around working at Labella's Market (the best homemade pasta in Rhode Island), school, boys, and saints. Freitas brings to life the protagonist's experiences at a Catholic school and in an immigrant family. First loves and family feuds fill the pages. Antonia wants nothing more than to experience her first kiss with her longtime crush and is horrified when his advances indicate a desire for more. She takes her religion seriously, without proselytizing. With a satisfying ending, this novel about the realistic struggles of a chaste teen is a great addition to all collections.-Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
Antonia Labella is a typical parochial schoolgirl, complete with plaid skirts and knee socks, but for years she's hoped the Vatican would make her something much more: a saint. She'd happily settle for being the saint of figs or even pasta-making. Antonia figures if there's a patron saint of accounting, why not? When not cultivating an encyclopedic knowledge of the saints, she swoons over hottie Andy Rottelini and pines for her first kiss. Freitas infuses Antonia's quirky narration with crisp depictions of daily life in Federal Hill, a close-knit, Italian-American neighborhood in Rhode Island. Readers hear heavy accents, smell simmering tomato sauces and feel the ever-present pull of Catholicism. Antonia's comedic treatment of the four big Italian obsessions-love, family, food and religion-will give teens insight into a rich, warm and complicated culture. Even non-Italian, non-Catholic readers will relate to Antonia as she struggles with an overbearing mom and gets giddy just thinking about landing her kiss. Like good homemade pasta, this satisfying novel balances lightness with substance and leaves teens wanting another serving. (Fiction. 12 & up.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312629144
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 8/17/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 346,065
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Freitas is a professor at Boston University. Her writing has appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Salon, and The Wall Street Journal. She contributes regularly to “On Faith,” an online panel co-sponsored by Newsweek and The Washington Post, and she is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Thing’s Considered. Growing up, Donna could often be found covered in flour in the wee hours of the morning making pasta from scratch with her Italian mother and grandmother, listening to them pray to one saint or another. She lives in New York City. This is her first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I Pray to St. Sebastian About Gym

Class and Thank God I’m Not Named After

the Patron Saint of Snakebites

I gazed up at the familiar boy. A golden aura surrounds his beautiful, muscular body, arrows poking into him from every direction.

Poor saint, I thought to myself. I hope it doesn’t hurt. Sebastian’s stare was piercing, as if he were looking right through me. As if his gaze were another arrow pointed my way.

I closed my eyes but the image stayed. It should. The picture of St. Sebastian had been hanging on the wall in our living room for as long as I could remember, right near the old-fashioned record player my mother listened to when she was dusting all the other saint statues and figurines, her daily tribute to the men and women who watch over us. Occasionally I’d come home from school and Mom would be belting out "That’s Amore” or "Volare” in her just-off-the-boat Italian accent. I had to be careful not to bring anyone up to the apartment when I heard music playing, or they might think she was crazy. She’s a character, my mother.

But then, all Catholics are a weird bunch. Especially the Italian ones.

I opened my eyes and read quietly from my Saint Diary.

Dear St. Sebastian:

O Patron Saint of Athletes, please help me not look stupid tomorrow in gym class when we play soccer even though I am not very fast, kick the ball in the wrong direction occasionally, and sometimes forget which team I’m on. And I promise I won’t sit down out on the field this time if they make me play defense again and I get bored. Ideally, I’d like to play more like Hilary, our star soccer player (even though she is named after the Patron Saint of Snakebites). But if I can’ t be as good as Hilary, I’ll settle for just not getting picked last. And don’t forget about Mrs. Bevalaqua. It would be really great if her arthritis got better so she could walk again. Thank you, St. Sebastian, for your intercession in these matters.

I lit the worn-down pillar candle beneath sexy Sebastian and gave him a longing look, as if I could will him to step out of his frame. It was right about then that my moment alone with the half-naked, holy babe was interrupted.

"Time to get ready for bed, Antonia! It’s getting late and you have school tomorrow,” Mom yelled from the kitchen.

"I’m praying,” I called back, my voice all "Please don’t interrupt my saint time,” aware that the surest way into whatever flexibility my mother could offer was through piety.

"Five more minutes, then!”

I started to close my diary when I noticed that the corner of my St. Anthony mass card was peeling. I smoothed the edge gently, lovingly, as if I were brushing the cheek of Andy Rotellini, the boy I’d been in love with since the summer before ninth grade. A crease was beginning to mark the murky blue sky surrounding Anthony, dark against the gleam of his halo. I dipped my pinkie into the pool of hot wax around the candlewick and placed a tiny drop on the corner of the card, refastening it to the page. Below St. Anthony’s image was a pocket made of thick, red linen paper, stuffed with devotions and prayers, some on random scraps of this and that, others scribbled on colorful Post-its. Anthony’s page had more devotions than any other saint in my diary.

My Saint Diaries were my most sacred possessions.

"I’m praying, Mommy,” said a voice behind me, sing-song and catty, sending a shiver up my spine. Not the scary sort of shiver or even the good kind, but the "blech” kind you felt when you met up with something disgusting. "I’m such a good little holier-than-thou girl, Mommy,” the voice went on, its nasal tone like nails against a chalkboard.

"Veronica,” I said, whirling around to face my cousin— who also starred as the evil nemesis in my life, not to be overly melodramatic or anything, because it is totally true. Veronica is eVil with a capital V. I tucked my Saint Diary behind me, making sure it was hidden.

Veronica was at the apartment trying to learn some of the Italian cookie recipes from my mother because her mother, my aunt Silvia, was determined that at least one of her three daughters would turn out to be a kitchen natural and grow up to usurp my mother at the family store. I’d thought I could successfully avoid Veronica’s visit, but I was wrong. My blood began to boil, but I took comfort in the fact that Veronica’s outfit was way too tight and her hair was so teased and sprayed that she was the caricature of a Rhode Island Mall Rat. "Remember when you used to be a nice person and people like me could actually stand to be around you?” I asked, once I knew my temper was in check.

"Remember when you used to not be such a total baby?” Sarcasm oozed from Veronica’s voice. Something— maybe almond paste?—was smeared down the side of her face. I bet she squeezed it straight from the tube into her mouth like a greedy glutton. "You and your mother think you’re so high and mighty.”

"Veronica . . .” my mother was calling. "Veronica? If you are not here to watch, you are never going to learn how to fold these egg whites into the batter properly . . . Yoohoo! Where are you?”

"Yeah, yeah, I’m coming, Auntie,” she said, rolling her eyes and disappearing back down the hall. Her footsteps thudded against the wood floor. Thud. Thud.

My cousin, the elephant.

As soon as Veronica was gone, the tension disappeared from my body. I grabbed my Saint Diary from where I’d stashed it and sighed with relief.

My Saint Diaries were also my most secret possessions.

Each year on my birthday, February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, I began a new volume, fixing different colored pockets onto the pages of a thick book, compiling a section marked "Notes” for my new saint ideas (like a Patron Saint of Homework or a Patron Saint of Notice—as in "Notice me, please, Andy Rotellini!”). Most important of all, I chose which out of the many thousands of official saints to venerate during the year. Tradition, my tradition, dictated that St. Anthony of Padua, the Patron Saint for Lost Things, got page number one. Always.

Volume 8, the record of my fifteenth year, was rose red, my favorite color.

In the back was a section for the occasional, precious response letter from the Vatican. (Really they were rejection letters, but I liked to think of them as responses because that sounded less depressing.) I held on to these to remind myself that at least they knew I existed. For the hope that one day, I might just get through to them.

You know, The Vatican People.

Any day now, the news would arrive. My Patron Saint of Figs proposal was a winner. I could feel it.

"Antonia! Sbrigati!” my mother yelled, shattering this moment of hope with her I’m-getting-angry voice and an Italian command that loosely translated as "Get your butt off to bed immediately and don’t tell me you’re still praying because I won’t buy it this time.” Early bedtime somehow applied to me but not my cousin.

I faced Sebastian one last time, the heat of the candle flame warm on my chin. "St. Sebastian,” I whispered, gazing into his blue eyes, "if you can help me figure out the saint thing, I’d really appreciate it. It’s already been thirteen days since I sent the last letter.”

"Antonia Lucia Labella!” (That’s "lou-chia,” by the way, like the pet.)

"Okay, one more last thing,” I said, tempting the full force of Mom’s rage, my lips level with Sebastian’s now, as if we were about to kiss. "Even though I know that technically in the Catholic church you have to be dead to be a saint, I really don’t want to die if you can help it. Fifteen is too young to die.”

I blew out the candle. A thin stream of smoke drifted up from the blackened wick, reaching toward heaven, and I wondered if I’d soon follow, joining all those who’d gone before me.

In a manner befitting a saint.

Excerpted from THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas.
Copyright © 2008 by Donna Freitas.
Published in 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Amazing

    This is one of my favorie books with just the right amount of romance, religion, and humor. I especially liked her relationship with Michael. If you liked this book, you'd be a fool not to read forgive my fins.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2011

    Overall a good read

    A fun read but for me personlly, its a bit cheesy. Really easy read. Good for ages 12-15

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable

    I just finished reading this book and it was really good. I really enjoyed reading it. It may not be one of the more known books in the world, but it was deffinetly one of the better ones.

    Keep Reading Everybody!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    nice reading

    I liked reading the book. Their was romance, betrayal and religion all in one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2009

    fun, fluffy and fifteen

    Antonia is a sweetheart with a noble desire to become the first living saint. Within the first few pages of the book, I am not convinced that Antonia is truly a catholic high-school girl living in 2008. What I hear is a forty something year old woman creating an all-too-naive character. I also hear a character with a lot of heart and one who reminds you in your twenty-thirty-forty something year old world about your own innocence and teenage longings rather than the all too typical angst of many teenage novels. I think that this is instead a good read for those who find themselves amidst the awkwardly wonderful and sometimes flustering realities of their first romance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fast Read

    This was a sweet book and a fast read. I liked the protagonist in this book and adored her relation with Michael.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

    Antonia Lucia Labella has two desires. One is to get her first kiss. The second is to become the first living saint. Neither looks like it will happen anytime soon for Antonia. <BR/><BR/>Fifteen, and the daughter of a devout Catholic Italian mother, Antonia is not allowed to attend the combined dances at school until she's sixteen. Her mother freaks out if her skirts go above her knees. And forget about going out of the house in makeup. As you can imagine, with these restrictions, the chance of a boyfriend and getting her first kiss are next to nil. <BR/><BR/>On a monthly basis, Antonia sends a letter to the Vatican with her latest idea for a new patron saint. Antonia comes up with creative needs that should have a saint. Her recent ideas include a patron saint for figs and fig trees, as well as one for first kisses and kissing. <BR/><BR/>THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD chronicles a brief glimpse into Antonia's life. With interesting snippits on the causes of various saints, the story moves along with amusing anecdotes from Antonia. Along the way, the reader learns of her secret crush on Andy Rotellini, as well as her confusing friendship with Michael. Antonia shares her angst caused by her three cousins, as well as her inability to become a living saint. <BR/><BR/>The story is quick and surprisingly educational for all. One doesn't have to be an Italian Catholic to appreciate the humor that Ms. Freitas generates with Antonia, who is sure to endear herself to everyone.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 7, 2009

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