How Fires End: A Novel

How Fires End: A Novel

by Marco Rafala


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A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.

Written with elegiac prose, How Fires End delves into the secret wars of men; the sins they cannot bury; and a life lived in fear of who will reveal them, who will survive them, and who will forgive them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781542042970
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Marco Rafalà is a first-generation Sicilian American, novelist, musician, and writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in fiction from The New School and is a cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Fires End is his debut novel. For more information, visit

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How Fires End 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
AnnieMcDonnell 3 months ago
Marco Rafalà’s “How Fires End” is a Triumph! It is a powerful ache that you read until you find relief. Rafalà puts his emotion on the pages; poignant moments shared between the characters and across seas and continents. He literally leaves your heart to cry or pound! All wrapped up in the hope I trust he wants us to believe in. “How Fires End” is more than a story, it is an absolute truth being shared after generations of secrets. Do not miss this debut novel, for I am sure this is the first of many evocative, strong, and must read novels by Rafalà.
BettyTaylor 4 months ago
Marco Rafalà paints a masterpiece with words. “A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.” HOW FIRES END is the debut novel of this stunningly talented author. I had to keep reminding myself over and over that is a debut novel. The writing is superb, and I was quickly drawn into the story of this family. Written from the perspectives of Salvatore, his sister Nella, his son David, and his friend Vincenzo the story begins in Middletown, Connecticut where the families settled over time. After the shocking ending of the first section, we are then thrown back in time to postwar Melilli, Sicily where nine-year-old Salvatore’s twin brothers are killed by a mortar shell and the lives of two families would be forever changed. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle the reader is able to slowly piece together fragments of the story and eventually unravel the secrets that have affected the families over generations. The book ends in Middletown as the consequence of the long buried secrets is realized. At times my breath was taken away as I felt the heartaches the Vassallo family endured. I was frustrated with the betrayals and the price that sons had to pay for their fathers’ wars. This is a culture where nothing is stronger than family, yet family can be destroyed by pride and senseless revenge. I kept hoping the families involved would recognize this before being completely destroyed. This multi-generational story is artfully woven through with the background of the families and descriptions of the Sicilian landscape, the traditional foods and rich culture, and old-world religion. I highly recommend this book and suspect the characters will linger in your memories for some time.
CharlotteLynnsReviews 4 months ago
As I started this book I was thinking that I was going to be reading about a Sicilian-family living during WWII, what I got was something so much better. I got a story of a young boy trying to find his way in the world with a father that did not grow up in America. I got the story of a father that had lost so much that all he wanted was to keep his son safe. The secrets that the father was keeping are the reason that they left their home country to come to America and the reason that he fears he will lose all that he loves. How Fires End is an eye-opening look at how WWII not only affected those who fight in the war but those who lived in the towns that the war passed through. It is a look at a Sicilian family that is torn apart by things out of their control and then left to try to continue living. The story of two families who hold a grudge and have a rivalry that travels from their home country to a new country. I enjoyed meeting these characters, learning about their lives, and seeing how they manage to live after seeing what they saw, losing what they did, and having to start their lives over in a new country.
MKF 5 months ago
Stick with this one. The first section tells the story of David, a teen living in Connecticut in the 1980s. You might roll your eyes a but but hang in there because there's more to him, and most especially to his father Salvatore- who doesn't come off well- than you think. There's a dramatic and unsettling event that leads you into the second section, which is Salvatore's back story in Sicily in the post WWII era. He makes complicated and not always smart decisions in his life which reverberate throughout time. The last section is Vincenzo's, the soldier who more or less saved Salvatore and his sister Nella, Nella is a constant presence in this tale of fathers and sons and how history travels. Is the Vassallo family cursed? It's an interesting choice to tell this story more or less in reverse but it works. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Great atmospherics and terrific characters made this a very good read.