The Saint of Lost Things

The Saint of Lost Things

4.6 6
by Christopher Castellani

View All Available Formats & Editions

It is 1953 in the tight-knit Italian neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware. Maddalena Grasso has lost her country, her family, and the man she loved by coming to America; her mercurial husband, Antonio, has lost his opportunity to realize the American Dream; their new friend, Guilio Fabbri, a shy accordion player, has lost his beloved parents.

In the shadow of

See more details below


It is 1953 in the tight-knit Italian neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware. Maddalena Grasso has lost her country, her family, and the man she loved by coming to America; her mercurial husband, Antonio, has lost his opportunity to realize the American Dream; their new friend, Guilio Fabbri, a shy accordion player, has lost his beloved parents.

In the shadow of St. Anthony’s Church, named for the patron saint of lost things, the prayers of these troubled but determined people are heard, and fate and circumstances conspire to answer them in unforeseeable ways.

With great authenticity and immediacy, The Saint of Lost Things evokes a bittersweet time in which the world seemed more intimate and knowable, and the American Dream simpler, nobler, and within reach.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Castellani explores the lives of Italian-American immigrants in this eloquent, leisurely tale about dreams and disappointments, a follow-up to his debut novel, A Kiss from Maddalena. Here, Castellani picks up Maddalena Grasso's story in 1953, when she is seven years settled in Wilmington, Del., but "always crying, always looking backward." She left her beloved Italian village for America, imagining that she and her new husband, Antonio, would live the American dream, but Antonio's ambition of owning a restaurant remains just out of reach, and beautiful Maddalena, once an aspiring actress and model, now sews piecework, pining for the family she left behind. Maddalena befriends Guilio, a lonely, middle-aged accordion player mired in grief since the death of his elderly parents, and they eventually help each other find the courage to move past their own regrets. (She finds hope in a long-awaited pregnancy, though she will face a difficult labor.) By structuring much of the novel in flashback-albeit to reflect Maddalena's mentality-Castellani slows the story's momentum, but the natural, easy beauty of his prose captures the Italian-American immigrant community of a bygone era. Agent, Mary Evans. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to his well-received debut, A Kiss from Maddalena, Castellani skillfully captures the Italian immigrant experience at mid-20th century. Contrary to the perceptions of Maddalena's parents-who happily gave her to Antonio Grasso-the streets of Wilmington, DE, aren't paved with gold. In America, everyone works, but these immigrants toil at menial assembly-line jobs or do piecework at sweatshops. Those who've made it operate family restaurants; Antonio dreams of owning one. He resents his younger brother, who works at a popular neighborhood spot, and misses his chance to go into a partnership with thuggish Renato, a successful pizza entrepreneur. Childless for seven years, Maddalena is equally unsatisfied and restless, retreating into dreams of the village her family left behind. Interwoven with their story is that of Julian (Giulio) Fabbri, adrift after the death of his parents. Castellani's is a fresh voice in Italian American fiction, not as prevelant today. This lovely, haunting, unhurried story will have readers clamoring for more.-Jo Manning, Miami Beach, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-It is 1953, and Maddalena Grasso, newly arrived in the United States from Italy, is trying to make sense of the language, the customs, and her place in her new, extended family. Her perpetually dissatisfied husband, Antonio, yearns for the American Dream: shiny new car, new home, and children. Having convinced the beautiful Maddalena to marry him and leave her family behind, he now watches over her jealously. He feels a mixture of contempt and envy for his brother, who seems perfectly happy with his average wife, nondescript daughters, and job managing a restaurant. While Maddalena tries to keep Antonio grounded in the simpler joys of the life they share, an adventurous and single childhood friend lures him with promises of easy riches. Maddalena befriends a middle-aged single man who has recently lost both parents. Giulio Fabbri is drifting through life, but as his friendship with the Grassos deepens, he comes to understand himself and his dreams better. Threading through the various relationships are undercurrents of racial tension. When an African-American family moves into their predominantly Italian neighborhood, the community reacts with ugliness. Maddalena, Antonio, and Giulio interact with Abraham Waters in markedly different ways, and these differences are telling in how each individual handles life's disappointments and surprises. Castellani's lyrical and elegant novel goes beyond the story of a mid-20th-century Italian-American community. His characters are finely drawn, and he has a keen eye for the subtle dramas of family and friendship.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The heroine of A Kiss for Maddalena (2003) grows up a lot in Castellani's second novel. Seven years after she came to Wilmington, Delaware, with her brand-new husband Antonio Grasso, Maddalena still badly misses her native village, and the family she left behind in war-devastated Italy. But she's learned to love Antonio, and as the story begins in 1953, she's finally pregnant for the first time. Antonio flies into a jealous rage; he only half-believes that his beautiful wife has cheated on him with her boss at the clothing factory, but it provides a good excuse to punish her with months of silence for the fact that he's always found her "unreachable." Antonio also seethes because, though he yearns to leave the Ford factory and start his own restaurant, he can't muster the courage to pool his savings with either younger brother Mario or best friend Renato, who both go ahead without him. Castellani makes neither of his principals entirely likable. Maddalena remains annoyingly passive, and Antonio is amazingly self-centered, yet they learn to accommodate each other in a marriage neither would dream of ending. Counterpointing their troubled intimacy is the story of Giulio Fabbri, desperately lonely after the deaths of his parents and, at age 40, still lacking either a job or a wife to cushion the blow. The author excels at capturing the quiet yet absorbing texture of everyday life, the intricate maneuvering among people who love each other but who all have their own agendas. There are a few big events: Renato and his girlfriend (with Antonio's reluctant help) cruelly harass a black family that dared to move into their Italian neighborhood; Maddalena falls into a coma after her daughter isborn prematurely. But the real drama lies in the slow accretion of changes that forge the Grassos into an enduring couple, mostly happy and more or less fulfilled by their far from perfect union. Not exactly a big romantic finish, but those who appreciate clear-eyed, unsentimental fiction will find its realism fresh and moving.

Read More

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.69(w) x 8.75(h) x 1.13(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A natural storyteller, warm-hearted and instinctual, Christopher Castellani has fashioned an engaging plot with writing that is dead-on and characters who reward you with their genuine humanity."
—Julia Alvarez. author of In the Time of Butterflies

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >