The Saint of Lost Things

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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...

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The Saint of Lost Things: A Novel

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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.

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124332
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/30/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 1.13 (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

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!"

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    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

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Enjoyable reading

    I love a family saga novel so this was a perfect read for me. There was a story line that ran through that left you feeling incomplete, wondering why it was in the story. All Niall I would definitely recommend it if you love family sagas!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2005

    A Wonderful Followup to A Kiss From Maddalena

    In 2003, author Christopher Castellani introduced readers to a young woman named Maddalena Piccinelli who lived in a small Italian village Santa Cecilia. We were also introduced to Vito Leone, the young man who loved her and hoped to be her husband, and we also met Antonio Grasso, a villager who moved to America as a child but returned to Santa Cecilia to find a wife. Readers cringed at the thought that Antonio would take her hand when she loved Vito and Vito loved her, but at a different time and age, the wishes of Maddalena¿s parents would be final and Vito and Maddalena as a couple would never be. Readers hated Antonio (or at least felt a strong dislike toward him), felt sorry for poor Vito, and wondered what would happen to Maddalena. In the fall of 2005, Castellani answered our questions in the sequel THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS. All of the strengths of A KISS FROM MADDALENA can be found in THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS. The writing has a poetic quality to it. Castellani¿s word choices are precise and conjure up wonderful images. The attention to historical detail is impeccable. Just as the village of Santa Cecilia in World War II seemed believable to readers, so too does the 1950¿s Italian section of the city of Wilmington, Delaware, centered around the parish of St. Anthony. The dreams of the people, the closeness of the neighborhood, the racial tensions, the rivalry between immigrant groups, and the overall closeness of the neighborhood all seem accurate and create the setting in which the story takes place. So what has happened to Maddalena? She¿s married to Antonio but is she happy? Does Vito come to rescue her? The book jacket¿s summary gives the reader a hint that after seven years of marriage, Maddalena has done her best to adjust to her new life. Readers of A KISS FROM MADDALENA know just how much she has sacrificed in her short lifetime, but even those who have not read the first book will be empathetic toward her as she misses her past but seems committed to make the best of her new life. Readers of A KISS may not have a soft spot for Antonio but in THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS will discover he¿s basically a good guy and a rather complex person. He wants what is best for his family, is a tireless worker, and puts his own dreams on hold believing the needs of his family always take precedence over his own. His flaws and faults may be many, but we grow to like him. A third character named Gullio Fabbri is introduced in THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS. He¿s a lonely bachelor who wants to begin a new life after his parents die, but he seems to lack the gumption and ambition necessary to do much more than change his name to Julian. The story itself revolves around the ups and downs of the three main characters, the joys and stress of the birth of a child, and beginning to take chances that life worthwhile. Castellani could have taken his work in a number of directions, many of which would have been predictable and cliché. Instead he chooses to give us an authentic peak inside an Italian-American family, portraying the hopes and dreams in a realistic manner, and shows us that there¿s a compelling story in the people we may take for granted. My guess is that anyone who is familiar with the American immigrant experience will find their own family in this book, regardless of nationality. At the end of A KISS FROM MADDALENA readers wanted to know more. The book ended but the story didn¿t. In the same way THE SAINT OF LOST THINGS comes to an end, but the story does not, but there¿s nothing to worry about. The second in a trilogy so we¿ll just have to anxiously await the third installment to see what will happen to Maddalena and Antonio and their new family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2005

    Great writing with memorable characters!

    Here is a wonderfully written story of Italian immigrants living in Wilmington, Delaware. Maddalena was very young when Antonio Grasso came to her village and arranged marriage with her father. She loves Antonio but misses her family and friends and just about everything about her Italian village. She becomes pregnant which changes some of their feelings for each other and then calamity strikes which ultimately brings everyone together knowing that family and friends are everything. There are other well-drawn characters including Antonio¿s brother Mario, who has had many failed and one successful business, their friend Renato who owns a bar where Antonio and his friends congregate and talk about their many problems. Guiilio Fabbri a shy accordion player who lives alone still missing his parents intently. This is a great living and breathing story with characters that will stay with you for a long while. A great book club book with lots of situations to talk about. It will tug at your heartstrings and is rendered in a very believable style. So much to like about this book you will want to pass it on to your friends.

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    Posted May 30, 2013

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    Posted January 23, 2013

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