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Vatican Waltz Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (December 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307452956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307452955
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The recent death of Cynthia Piantedosi’s beloved grandmother still colors her every waking thought, though she’s always been able to find peace in the local church. A devout Catholic, Nana instilled the same respect for the old traditions in Cynthia, and Cynthia grows in her convictions to become the church’s first female priest and bring the church into the modern era. Drawn by this calling, Cynthia flies to Italy to take an audience with a church elder at the Vatican. Completely unprepared for what she finds, Cynthia’s faith is shaken to its core. While the novel refrains from proselytizing, Merullo’s explanations of relevant church doctrines allow non-Catholics to understand Cynthia’s journey. His love for the subject matter is evident on every page, and his lush prose is particularly impressive when he describes Cynthia’s travels through Rome and Genoa, allowing the reader a glance inside some very sacred places. Fans of Alice McDermott and Merullo’s earlier work will appreciate the heart, soul, and sheer joy found in Vatican Waltz and one woman’s commitment to a life far more miraculous than she ever imagined. --Stephanie Turza


Praise for Vatican Waltz

"Vatican Waltz is a welcoming place for parishioners and interlopers alike. . . . Catholics will identify with its plaintive call for the kind of renewal . . . that for many has been embodied in the inspiring figure of Pope Francis. But others, too, if they have kept their minds open, will be surprised at how uplifted they are by its story of individual courage and conviction.”--Wall Street Journal 

“A thoughtful and compelling view of religious imperatives in the 21st century.”--
People magazine

“The novel becomes not just a portrait of a quiet woman, but of a troubled institution at a historical crossroads. . . . Along the way, Merullo skillfully turns [Cynthia] into a mirror of the complex and arrested world of church traditionalists, literalists, and self-preservationists.”--The Boston Globe

"A page-turning novel of religious ideas written with love and imagination . . . with fillips of The Da Vinci Code conspiracy and Eat Pray Love gourmandism."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Fans of Alice McDermott and Merullo’s earlier work will appreciate the heart, soul, and sheer joy found in Vatican Waltz and one woman’s commitment to a life far more miraculous than she ever imagined."--Booklist

“A fresh, moving portrait of religion as it could and should be.”--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Praise for Roland Merullo

“Captivating . . . [Merullo] is adept at creating suspense, planting credible red herrings, and finally spilling the truth at just the right moment.”  —Boston Globe

“Merullo has a knack for rendering emotional complexities, paradoxes, or impasses in a mere turn of the phrase.”  —Chicago Tribune

“[Merullo] is simply a throwback to the days when novels by serious writers—Stevenson, Conrad, Greene—often had what are called ‘plots.’ ”  —St. Petersburg Times 

More About the Author

Roland Merullo was born in Boston and raised in the working-class city of Revere, Massachusetts. He had a scholarship to Exeter Academy and graduated in 1971, attended Boston University for two years, transferred to Brown and graduated from Brown in 1975, then earned a Master's there--in Russian Studies-- in 1976. Roland has published twelve novels and five books of non-fiction, and given talks at hundreds of universities, schools, bookstores, and other venues. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife Amanda and their two daughters. He can be reached via his website:

Merullo has several new books out in late 2013. His humorous travel memoir, Taking the Kids to Italy, tells the story of a disastrous family trip to Italy. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong, from illness to cold houses, but Merullo shines the light of laughter on all of it and creates a story that will appeal to armchair travelers and to any family that has met with vacation challenges.

His novel, Vatican Waltz, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the five best books of 2013 on the subject of religion. It tells the intriguing story of a young Catholic woman who believes she is being called by God to become a parish priest. Provocative without being irreverent, this book dovetails nicely with the changes being initiated by Pope Francis.

He's also the "as told to" writer of John DiNatale's memoir, The Family Business, which is the story of DiNatale's decades as a Boston private eye. Full of anecdotes both personal and professional, The Family Business provides an inside look into a profession that TV shows always get wrong.

Still available in various formats (including a collector's edition) is Merullo's recent novel, Lunch with Buddha, the long-awaited sequel to Breakfast with Buddha. Lunch details a road trip from Washington State to North Dakota with the same wonderful characters as its predecessor. In a Starred Review, Kirkus Magazine called it, "a beautifully written and compelling story about a man's search for meaning that earnestly and accessibly tackles some well-trodden but universal questions. A quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes."

For more details go to or Roland Merullo's FaceBook page or website.

His best-selling novel, Breakfast with Buddha, recently went into its 15th printing. Like Golfing with God before it, and American Savior after it, Breakfast with Buddha treats questions of philosophy/spirituality from a multi-denominational viewpoint and with a healthy dose of humor. The novel has become a favorite with book clubs all over the country. It was based on an actual trip Merullo took from New York to North Dakota, most of it in the company of his wife and daughters. Another novel, Golfing with God, has just been optioned for film by Gemfilms.

His Alex Award-winning 2011 novel, The Talk-Funny Girl, recently out in paperback, is the story of a teenage girl in rural New Hampshire who escapes an abusive home life in a most unusual way. It follows a theme that can be found in almost all Merullo's books: a person overcoming some past trauma, whether that be the stress of war, illness, divorce, addiction, or early abuse.

The Alex Awards are given by the Young Adult Library Services Association to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

Several old favorites--Leaving Losapas, A Russian Requiem, Passion for Golf, Revere Beach Boulevard, and Revere Beach Elegy, have just been reissued from AJAR Contemporaries, in print form and as e-books. AJAR has also brought out Roland's small book of writing advice, Demons of the Blank Page. Roland does workshops based on this book at libraries and other venues. Watch his FaceBook page for news of these workshops.

Merullo has a side-speciality, golf writing. His articles and columns appear frequently in Golf World Magazine, and his golf books include GOLFING WITH GOD, THE ITALIAN SUMMER, AND PASSION FOR GOLF.

He also writes regularly for the Boston Globe Op-Ed page.

Customer Reviews

I was very disappointed with the ending.
Betty J. Fentz
She knows her Catholic faith well, and she knows that a woman is prohibited, by the doctrine of her faith, from becoming a priest.
Sandra Brazier
I believe every reader will translate her differently rooted within their own experiences and meanings.
Thomas P. Hull

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on October 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cynthia Clare Spiantedosi is a nice Italian-American girl, living in a suburb of Boston. Gifted with a deep inner life of prayer she spends most of her time at home with her father or in church. Her only real friends are Catholic priests and she reads deeply in spiritual literature. She becomes a visionary, spending hours in trance-like states of prayer, and becomes convinced that God wants to her to become a priest. As she pursues this quixotic quest, including a trip to Rome to meet with one of the cardinals, she experiences the expected rejection and quick dismissal, but also finds she has made mortal enemies. The story races to its climax and a mind-blowing, totally unexpected ending.

What else can I tell you? I'm not going to spoil the story for you, so you'll have to read it yourself. If you're open-minded about religion, you will love it. If not, if forms and religious rules are vitally important for you, then maybe not. Yes, the story is a little hard to believe, but I found it easy to get into, and hard to put down. The characters are vividly portrayed, the dialog is beautiful, the loving relationships of family are heart-warming, the smattering of Italian is charming. Sometimes the author becomes almost preachy, but fortunately he keeps that under good control.

Author Roland Merullo writes beautiful, flowing prose, that grabs the reader from the first pages and doesn't let go. I enjoyed this book immensely and was sorry to see it end. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Simone Barrington on December 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up at the library on a whim. The story and characters fascinated me.
Being familiar with the Boston area and having visited Rome, the places were so realistic.
It was hard to put down, and I kept thinking of the story when I wasn't reading it! My true
test of a good book.
I rated it 3 stars because of the ending. There was no preparation for that ending.
It felt like the author was just done at that point and put a shock ending on it.
I thought I missed something. Based on the ending, I'm not sure I would recommend
the book to my friends and fellow Catholic readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen V. Masse on January 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two contrary stories in one book tend to wash the powerful and beautifully written character of Cynthia Piantedosi up on the sands of Revere Beach. Vatican Waltz ventures into Dan Brown (DaVinci Code) territory with the old chestnut Vatican power underground rising up like a ghost of KGB leftovers who are somehow blind to the reality that the majority of conservative Catholic Cardinals would in fact elect the “liberal” Pope Francis in spite of the deadly and all-knowing Murderous Vatican Underground. My instincts suggest that Merullo was somehow editorially muscled into spicing up the story with unnecessary plot points of all-encompassing evil and paranoid violence, in disregard of the countless everyday events and temptations that would serve the same purpose of derailing Cynthia’s spiritual destiny.

What probably would have made this book perfect would have been to keep Father Alberto's death a matter of conjecture, to remove the weird Albanian spook or turn him slightly more into an Angel Gabriel type figure, and to make the motorcycle assault either a complete accident, or remove the iron pipe from the rider's hand -- since none of these plot mechanisms adds anything to the reality of Cynthia's spiritual journey. Her discovery of her own divinity is a marvel worthy of a compelling novel, and an inspiration to the reader in spite of the plot juice dripping in the reader's eyes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on February 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
If you haven't yet read this book and want to, please avoid this review until you've done so.
I loved "Breakfast With Buddha", and enjoyed this novel right up until the last couple of pages.
Here is my profound problem with this story: We are led to believe that this woman has a mission to help the Catholic Church evolve to accept women priests, which most modern people would recognize as a worthy goal. Then we find out that her actual role will be as a breeder. Immaculate conception. A new Mary. Instead of grappling with a real issue that is becoming more pressing for our times- that of allowing women to join the church in an active way- our protagonist's body is going to be used as a "vessel", most likely to bring forth another male savior. This is unbelievably disappointing, and a serious cop-out on Merullo's part. Much better that he had avoided the "miracle" and stuck with the very pressing issue of women's role in the church, which must be more inclusive toward females if it wants to keep them. Instead, he is apparently saying that her body is to be used without her permission, and that this is the highest calling a woman can have. I would have been more impressed if she had succeeded in becoming a humble parish priest.
It sounds like God is saying to her, "Oh, so you are a spiritual type, huh? Don't worry your pretty little head about things like the priesthood. I'll give you something much better: a chance to have your body used to carry a new holy person. After all, that's the highest honor I can give to a female, right?"
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