Stealing Fatima: A Novel

Stealing Fatima: A Novel

4.0 2
by Frank X. Gaspar

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As the last light of All-Hallows’ Eve falls on a small town at the tip of Cape Cod, Father Manuel Furtado begins his nightly ritual of gin and pills, prayer, and hours spent writing feverishly in his ledger. With the deep luxury of the chemicals in his body, he copies passages from Saint Augustine and Martin Heidegger, disciplined in his desire to flesh out


As the last light of All-Hallows’ Eve falls on a small town at the tip of Cape Cod, Father Manuel Furtado begins his nightly ritual of gin and pills, prayer, and hours spent writing feverishly in his ledger. With the deep luxury of the chemicals in his body, he copies passages from Saint Augustine and Martin Heidegger, disciplined in his desire to flesh out his ever-building demons.

But, unlike his usual uninterrupted reflection, this night there is a crash, sudden enough to pull Father Manny from the rectory and toward his church, Our Lady of Fatima. He finds a man there — his childhood friend Sarafino, whom he has not seen in decades — frail with illness and desperate to tell the priest about his recurring visits from the Virgin Mary. Despite Father Manny’s grave doubts about Sarafino and his visions, he lets his old friend into his home and his life, and this single act ignites a series of events that challenge the faith of this fishing village, the parish, and of Father Manny himself.

Striking and lovingly detailed, Stealing Fatima is the story of a priest’s search for redemption in a town where, even in these modern times, the divine is possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his second novel, award-winning poet-novelist Gaspar (Leaving Pico) explores an unnamed Massachusetts burg (with a strong resemblance to Provincetown) through its Portuguese-speaking community, a collection of rich, emotionally stormy characters. Centered on Fr. Manuel Furtado, the story begins during Manny's nightly ritual of liquor, pills and prayer late on All-Hallows' Eve, when he finds his long-lost childhood friend, Sarafino Pomba, breaking into his church. Dying from AIDS and running from the law, Sarafino takes up residence in a spare room, intent on convincing Manny that he's been visited by the Virgin Mary. Other mysteries involve Manny's family, lesbian church secretary Mariah Grey and her partner, and a missing religious statue; meanwhile, fellow priest John Sweet investigates Manny's substance abuse problem, hoping to acquire his own parish. Gaspar's winding sentences keep the pace measured, but leave deep impressions regarding the fishing community and its inhabitants. (The author is especially affectionate toward Sarafino, ”So flimsy and brittle, like a dry leaf, with the wind raking the world outside.”) Gaspar's masterful prose should absorb any reader intrigued by immigrant communities. (Dec.)
Library Journal
A wounded healer navigates the uneasy intersections of faith, doubt, and action in this quietly brilliant novel about the mysteries of belief. Tormented by scandal and various addictions, Father Manuel Furtado struggles to heal himself and care for his church, Our Lady of Fatima. With the help of both blood and fictive kin, Furtado is able to put aside his personal demons and minister to the closely knit community to which he's been assigned. The return of a presumed-dead childhood friend, however, leads to a series of events that plunge Furtado, and the town, deeper into its long, dark night of the soul. Will the recovery of a long-lost statue bring grace and healing? Or is the past better left unburied? Readers who enjoy complex characterization will appreciate Father Furtado's complex psychological makeup and admire Gaspar's equally conflicted secondary characters. VERDICT Gaspar, an award-winning poet and novelist (Leaving Pico), triumphs again with his unflinching portrait of doubt and devotion, demonstrating with skill and grace how the two forces simultaneously torment and uplift Fatima's parishioners.—Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh
Kirkus Reviews
A troubled New England pastor wrestles with the mysteries of God and man. Gaspar follows up his elegant debut novel (Leaving Pico, 1999) with an equally elegiac contemplation of transgression and redemption set in the same culturally rich Portuguese stew of Provincetown, Mass. Warring impulses between the search for truth and the keeping of secrets occupy the heavy heart of Father Manuel Furtado, a protective guardian of his flock who nonetheless damps down his religious anxiety with gin and pills every night. His character is represented well by Gaspar's lush, thoughtful prose: "It was not a matter of eternity for him, this salvation, but a matter of lifting the quotidian despairs and depressions, the wounds and griefs. And of pointing up the small happinesses. The generosities of spirit that bloomed ephemerally in the world. The sinful world, he might say, but what was sin but humanness? And anyway, he was not bereft of God. God was real and present in his life and everywhere else. Exactly how was a huge conundrum." Furtado's perilous intellectual position is threatened when a very old friend, Sarafino Pomba, appears suddenly in his church, Our Lady of Fatima. "You and me, Manny. What stuff we did," says the fugitive convict, nearly incoherent from illness. Caught in a race between AIDS and lung cancer, the dying Sarafino claims to have divine visions as a result of a long-ago indiscretion by the two friends: the theft of a statue of the Virgin Mary they believe lies buried still in the woods nearby. In tracing Furtado's tumultuous path from welcoming Pomba back into his life-an act of sublime faith for the wary believer-to recovering the long-missing icon, Gaspar crafts an eloquent,emotionally resonant story that marries the richness of his ethnic characters to the literary affections of writers like John Irving. A modern-day folk tale that finds the divine spirit resting in the strangest places.

Product Details

Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

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Stealing Fatima: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Johnrguthrie More than 1 year ago
Stealing Fatima is a meticulously crafted work of literary fiction. The setting, though unnamed, is obviously the Portuguese fishing village and arts colony of Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. The primary characters are Fr. Manuel Furtado and his long absent childhood friend, Sarafino Pomba. Sarafino returns dying of AIDs. He is convinced that he has experienced visitations from Our Lady of Fatima. It quickly becomes apparent that Sarafino brings other baggage; there is an outstanding arrest warrant for him for armed robbery. An additional matter that drives the narrative to its intriguing denouement is the fact that Fr. Furtado, "Manny" to his friends, is experiencing a profound inner conflict which can be descibed atleast initially as a disturbing crisis of faith or a hopeful trend toward rationality, depending on one's perspective: But more ominously, as he labors mightily to rebuild his previously neglected and dying parish by day, Father Furtado's life is further troubleed by an alarming degree self-medication for the pain of an old neck and shoulder injury. This is the result of a plane crash while serving in the military in Vietnam. ptions. The pace of this work is slow initially, as is often the case with literary fiction (e.g. Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna), but action and gravitas increase as the reader continues. Like a master mason, Gaspar incrementally builds an artful and finely wrought edifice, one that provides a perspective on an historic and thriving immigrant community.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago