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The Saint of Lost Things Paperback – Bargain Price, October 3, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425211738
  • ASIN: B001G8WSH8
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,025,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He resides in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, one of the country's leading independent creative writing centers. He is the author of three novels: All This Talk of Love (Algonquin, February 5, 2013), A Kiss from Maddalena (Algonquin, 2003)--winner of the Massachusetts Book Award --and The Saint of Lost Things (Algonquin, 2005), a BookSense (IndieBound) Notable Book. In addition to his work with Grub Street, Christopher is on the faculty of the Warren Wilson College Low-Residency MFA program and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Christopher was educated at Swarthmore College, received his Masters in English Literature from Tufts University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University. He is currently at work on his fourth novel, Leading Men -- for which he received a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation -- and a collection of essays, The Art of Perspective, to be published by Graywolf Press in 2015.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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I look forward to reading his future books.
Natasha VanDriesen
The characters represent a culture that was the European immigrant experience - and Mr. Castellani has shown us a slice of it.
Barbara M. Dumas
Be sure to read the third book, as it is all pulled together.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Natasha VanDriesen on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This was a very genuine-feeling account of the Italian immigrant experience, and the city of Wilmington was vividly evoked. I would disagree with those who have said that Maddalena is not a likable character. True, she is not particularly "empowered" in the modern sense, and she has her flaws, but she is a product of her time and culture. I couldn't help sympathizing with her. So often literary heroines are exceptional or ahead of their time in some way, and while this is certainly interesting, it's rather refreshing to read about the interior life and feelings of a "normal" person -- and something which takes a bit more courage and empathy on the author's part, I think.

My only niggles with the book: some historical innacuracies, which stood out because most of the book seemed so well-researched. For example, pantyhose (mentioned when Maddalena goes to the talent agent) weren't invented until 1959, and Magic Markers (also mentioned in that scene) weren't around by that name, anyway, until the mid sixties.

I also wished that there was a bit more conflict and tension to the plot. While I finished and enjoyed the book, and found the writing clear and sensitive, the book as a whole was very quiet, and didn't have that wonderful page-turning quality I crave. Still, it's clear that the author has a lot of promise. I look forward to reading his future books.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on November 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MaddalenaC on September 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"The Saint of Lost Things" Picks up the story of Maddalena Piccinelli Grasso, heroine of Castellani's first novel, "A Kiss from Maddalena" in America,her years-long adjustment to the new land and her gradual acceptance and growing love of Antonio who took her from Vito, the boy who loved her back in her Italian village. In letters from the beloved and much missed Old Country, Maddalena learns what happened to Vito after her hasty departure. Through a friendship with a middle-aged neighbor who is also mourning the past and his parents, Maddalena is able to express her grief over the village and family she left behind, and after the birth of her first child, which almost costs her her life, to move into a sort of resignation to her lot. It seems that although she comes to love Antonio, she never really stops missing the homeland she left against her will so many years before. I gave the novel 4 stars because although it was good to learn what happens to Maddalena, the love that grows in her for Antonio, who for me is really not a very admirable person, is beyond my comprehension as anything but a resigning of herself to the only person to whom she can cling in a sea of unfamiliar people and customs. Maddalena has to share her grief over the Old Country with Giulio, who is because of his own losses, emotionally available to talk to. Like so many husbands of that generation, Antonio hides so much of himself from his wife, and she accepts that.(In the end, though, Antonio, at least comes from the same village, and with Giulio at last finding a woman, he becomes lost to her as a friend and confidant).Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Barbara M. Dumas on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Maddalena Grasso, like so many others in her Wilmington Delaware neighborhood, left her Italian village, and everyone she had ever known, for the hope and promise of America. This is a beautifully and honestly crafted story of one immigrant experience. The days of Maddalena's life are spent working as a seamstress, evenings she cooks for the males in her husband's large family, and her nights are spent waiting for her husband to come to her and praying that she will finally succeed in producing a child.

Although so many sacrificed so much to come to this mixed society, the Italians lived in a neighborhood with other Italians, and resented (perhaps unto death) any influx of outsiders. This book bravely raises problems that had no resolution - at least none in the fifties - problems of life and race in a sea of work and fear, of striving for monetary success, and of loneliness. Maddalena is finally able to make a friend, a man named Julian. He is like a gift, as he brings Maddalena music from her lost society, and although he is male, he is of a type apparently unworthy of her husband's jealousy. It strikes me now - as I write this - that Julian is the only man in the book that I would care to share an espresso with, although meeting all of them has been most interesting. The characters represent a culture that was the European immigrant experience - and Mr. Castellani has shown us a slice of it. Well done!
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