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Portofino: A Novel (Calvin Becker Trilogy) Paperback – August 10, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"A wry coming of age tale ... splendid laugh-out loud moments."

About the Author

Frank Schaeffer has worked as a director on a number of movies, both theatrical and television. Together with Frank J. Gruber, he also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Portofino. He lives in Massachussetts. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Calvin Becker Trilogy
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (August 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786713755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786713752
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,211,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

New York Times best selling author of more than a dozen books Frank Schaeffer is a survivor of both polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood, an acclaimed writer who overcame severe dyslexia, a home-schooled and self-taught documentary movie director, a feature film director and producer of four low budget Hollywood features Frank has described as "pretty terrible," and a best selling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Frank is the author of "And God Said, 'Billy!'" and many other books. Frank's three semi-biographical novels about growing up in a fundamentalist mission: "Portofino," "Zermatt" and "Saving Grandma" have a worldwide following and have been translated into nine languages. Jane Smiley writing in the Washington Post (7/10/11) says this of Frank's memoirs "Crazy For God" and "Sex, Mom and God": "[Schaeffer's] memoirs have a way of winning a reader's friendship...Schaeffer is a good memoirist, smart and often laugh-out-loud funny...Frank seems to have been born irreverent, but his memoirs have a serious purpose, and that is to expose the insanity and the corruption of what has become a powerful and frightening force in American politics... Frank has been straightforward and entertaining in his campaign to right the political wrongs he regrets committing in the 1970s and '80s...As someone who has made redemption his work, he has, in fact, shown amazing grace."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Identifying with Calvin Becker in Portofino is easy for those who grew up fundamentalist, but are no longer in that particular camp. I recall a conversation with a cousin a couple of years ago which detailed the same kinds of experiences Calvin had. Since I grew up only half fundamentalist (mother was father wasn't) I was spared some of Calvin's angst, but was subjected to other types (my father was obviously among the "unsaved.")

I have appreciated Frank's work from the days when he was known as Franky. A lot of people associate his father with the sort of fundamentalist preacher that is portrayed in Portofino, but actually Francis Schaeffer encouraged his son to watch Fellini films and encouraged his forays into film making. Francis Schaeffer was outspoken against the list mentality in fundamentalism (see True Spirituality). It was Francis and Edith Schaeffer who encouraged many of my generation of fundamentalists to be more open to culture. I think that to assume that the Beckers are merely loosely fictionalized Schaeffer's is to not pay attention to things that Frank himself has written about his parents as well as things that Edith and Susan have revealed about the family. Francis Schaeffer once said that if we expect perfection or nothing we will get nothing. He would have hated a hagiography of his life. Towards the end of his life he was as distressed as his son at the direction that evangelical Christianity was moving in.

It certainly is amusing to see how Frank has taken his father's temper tantrums (documented by Edith) in which a flower pot routinely got thrown and encorporated it into the fictional character of Rev. Becker.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hinkle on May 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Frank Schaeffer proves his skill as a storyteller in the coming-of-age novel "Portofino." This often hilarious tale revolves around the son of fundamentalist missionaries to Switzerland on annual family vacation in Italy. There is a lot of humor here, with an undercurrent of fear (father's "moods") and even, in one instance, cruelty. The boy, Calvin, tries to be normal in the face of his family's evangelical quirkiness, proving that "correct doctrine" does not preclude dysfunctionality. Some conservative Christians (a group of which I consider myself a part) may be offended, but only if they take themselves too seriously. The sexual euphemisms, the excessive "Thees and Thous" used in prayer (especially by the long-winded, super-spiritual mother), the splitting and resplitting of a denomination due to doctrinal hair-splitting (do they follow Hodge or Warfield?), and especially the infamous "Gospel Walnut" I found very humorous, probably from recognition as much as anything else.
With Schaeffer, it is fairly well known that he is the son of conservative Christian icons Francis and Edith Schaeffer, and that he has turned his back on his strict Calvinist upbringing and embraced Eastern Orthodoxy. Are Calvin's parents in the book Francis and Edith themselves, or just people based on them? I really don't know, but I'll give Francis and Edith the benefit of the doubt, and just say that Frank Schaeffer has given the world a terrific novel with excellent characterizations. Highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Gil Few on December 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
I could say this about most of Frank's recent books. I have read everything Frank, or his father Francis, or his mother Edith have ever published. In addition I sold thousands of them; I am a former "Christian" bookseller. Reading Frank is like looking uncomfortably into a mirror of my life as a former evangelical. Fortunately this trilogy of novels helps me laugh in the midst of my tears. In fact, I do not recommend that you read these books in public (on a plane, in an airport or doctor's waiting room, for instance), for you might find yourself laughing uncontrollably and then pleading to the white coats as they pull you away. This is especially true of "Saving Grandma."

Although Frank's unabated anger shows through somewhat in these novels (not to the extent as in his non-fiction), here it is subjugated to his creation of superior art.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire trilogy.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Phyl L. Good on September 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you're still in the fundamentalist and/or evangelical fold and are familiar with the writings of Francis Schaeffer -- or even if you've left in the last few years -- the novel Portofino by Schaeffer's son Frank is bound to be unnerving. Especially if you've also read his recent autobiography, Crazy for God.

In Portofino, Schaeffer writes about the son of an American missionary family living in Switzerland, following two of their summer holidays in the Italian town that gives the book its name. We immediately suspect biographical elements in the book, given that Calvin Becker's family teaches intellectual ideas in a setting similar to L'Abri, the institution founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer. The two family holidays take place in 1962 and 1965, about the same years that Frank would have been Calvin's age. And Calvin, like Frank, is eventually sent to a boarding school in England because his education is sorely neglected in Switzerland while his parents concentrate on their more important ministry.

The similarities between the Schaeffer family and the fictional Becker family become more obvious as eleven-year old Calvin views the world through a strict Reformationist theological prism.

For example, he fully accepts that the Italian family he spends time with on the beach is "obviously not saved." When he takes a single sip of wine the family offers him, he judges himself: " I was drinking wine just like the Spaniards did while they laughed and swore and tortured real Christians because they would no longer worship Mary, whom we know was an ordinary girl, not anything special, but they worshiped her because they were pagans who served the Pope not our Lord. Now I drank wine too!
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