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Stealing Fatima: A Novel Paperback – December 1, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his second novel, award-winning poet-novelist Gaspar (Leaving Pico) explores an unnamed Massachusetts burg (with a strong resemblance to Provincetown) through its Portuguese-speaking community, a collection of rich, emotionally stormy characters. Centered on Fr. Manuel Furtado, the story begins during Manny's nightly ritual of liquor, pills and prayer late on All-Hallows' Eve, when he finds his long-lost childhood friend, Sarafino Pomba, breaking into his church. Dying from AIDS and running from the law, Sarafino takes up residence in a spare room, intent on convincing Manny that he's been visited by the Virgin Mary. Other mysteries involve Manny's family, lesbian church secretary Mariah Grey and her partner, and a missing religious statue; meanwhile, fellow priest John Sweet investigates Manny's substance abuse problem, hoping to acquire his own parish. Gaspar's winding sentences keep the pace measured, but leave deep impressions regarding the fishing community and its inhabitants. (The author is especially affectionate toward Sarafino, So flimsy and brittle, like a dry leaf, with the wind raking the world outside.) Gaspar's masterful prose should absorb any reader intrigued by immigrant communities. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Graham Greene would likely recognize the unhappy priest who emerges in the opening pages of this improbable novel: bereft of faith in church doctrine and sustained only by gin and fraudulently acquired painkillers, Manuel Furtado nightly explores the dark places in his own soul and in the lives of his hard-pressed congregation through wide-ranging meditations recorded in a personal ledger. But one night Furtado’s dark ruminations are interrupted by the reappearance of Sarafino—a long-lost boyhood friend, now dying from AIDS and in flight from an armed-robbery warrant. The priest’s life veers in directions even Greene could not have imagined. In a multilayered narrative rich in psychological insight, Gaspar follows his protagonist as he ministers to his distressed friend, so exposing unresolved conflicts in his own life. A number of these conflicts cluster around his involvement—decades earlier—in the impious theft of a sacred image of Our Lady of Fatima, an image embodying church teachings that Furtado cannot accept. Furtado’s perplexities over these teachings grow particularly acute when Sarafino repeatedly claims personal visions of the Virgin. Readers will fully anticipate Sarafino’s death. They will marvel, however, at where events surrounding that death finally take Furtado. A brilliant foray beyond the usual limits of fiction. --Bryce Christensen
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Original edition (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582435162
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582435169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,279,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John R. Guthrie on February 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Frank X. Gaspar's Stealing Fatima is a meticulously crafted and engaging work of literary fiction. The setting, though unnamed, is obviously the Portuguese fishing village and arts colony of Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. The primary characters are Fr. Manuel Furtado and his long absent childhood friend, Sarafino Pomba. Sarafino returns dying of AIDs. He is convinced that he has experienced visitations from Our Lady of Fatima. It quickly becomes apparent that Sarafino brings other baggage; there is an outstanding arrest warrant for him for armed robbery.
An additional matter that drives the narrative to its intriguing denouement is the fact that Fr. Furtado, "Manny" to his friends, is experiencing a profound inner conflict which can be descibed at least initiaslly as a disturbing crisis of faith or a hopeful trend toward rationality, depending on one's perspective:
"He did not believe that Jesus was Divine or the Son of God, nor did he believe that God impregnated a young girl through the Holy Spirit (which now reminded him of Zeus and all his disguised copulations with humans). So he did not believe that Our Lady appeared to Sarafino Pomba or ever to anyone else. He did not believe in the Resurrection. He did not believe that God would sacrifice a son to be tortured to death in order to redeem a race of beings He himself created imprefectly."

But more ominously, as he labors mightily to rebuild his previously neglected and dying parish by day, Father Furtado's life is further troubleed by an alarming degree self-medication for the pain of an old neck and shoulder injury. This is the result of a plane crash while serving in the military in Vietnam.
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Stealing Fatima is a remarkable novel, as engrossing as it is profound. The writing is muscular and lyrical, the poet writing apparent on every page: "From inside the church wafted the muddled perfume of beeswax, flowers, traces of incense, the mellow lemon polish of oil and soap from the rubbed wooden pews. All a sweetness. . . . An amazing light in the honeyed gloom of the church, where the only radiance came from the little swarms of votive candles racked in the iron stands just inside the lateral doors. It was like a sky-glow or a gloaming" (p.16). Central to this work is Father Manuel (Manny) Furtado and his friend Sarafino and their conflicted spiritual journey toward redemption. This is one of the most spiritually engaging novels I have read in recent years.
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Format: Paperback
I've hoped for a "sequel" to Gaspar's novel, "Leaving Pico," (A book I've read twice over the years.)....so I was delighted to discover his latest novel!

Reading Gaspar's new novel, "Stealing Fatima," I had the sense of returning to a familiar and welcome environment that was introduced in that first novel.
Written in the same Provincetown, Cape Cod setting, but with different characters, Fatima reminds the reader of a familiar culture and spiritual place. These are people with depth who are revealed in moving and credible relationships with the protagonist, Father Manny Furtado.

It is not surprising to learn that Gaspar is also a superb poet.
Reading his novels recently led me to his poetry, specifically, Field Guide to the Heaven's. The poet's commitment to truth and authenticity, his attention to detail, is apparent throughout this novel. The priest's quest for understanding and faith is the crux of the book, and it is only fitting that his story be told in such rich language.

After finishing the book, I found myself haunted by the character of Father Furtado as well as the pleasingly ambiguous ending of the story.
Gaspar is an honest and thoughtful writer who creates a story (setting, characters, and plot: the whole package!) that draws you in and holds on to you, even after reading.
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Format: Paperback
Here you'll meet Father Manny Furtado, a pill-popping Catholic priest, trying to hold together the remnants of his Portuguese American parish in Provincetown, Massachusetts. As Manny wrestles with his faith, guilt and parish budget (not to mention harsh winters, his gin and his pills), the town itself plays a major role. The story delves back into Manny's (and the author's) boyhood in 1950's - 60's Provincetown, a Portuguese American fishing village, and contrasts it with the modern P-Town, a gay mecca and Cape Cod tourist-trap. Along the way, Gaspar, who has also published several books of poetry, gives us beautiful, lyrical writing. ("The houses stood serene in the early morning light, the surfaces of the street dark, as though some pigment of the night had soaked into it and hadn't returned to the air yet. The day promised to be rinsed and empty.") The plot, about a stolen statue and the return of a childhood friend, long thought dead, reads like a mystery story and becomes a real page-turner in the last third of the book. This is Gaspar's second novel and his second about Provincetown; the first is Leaving Pico. Stealing Fatima truly has something for everyone: lots of New England color, well-developed characters, a good mystery, and truly excellent writing. Its religious theme makes it an excellent novel for discussion by Catholic reading groups.
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