Only once every 213 years does Easter coincide with April Fool’s Day. And when it does, watch out—especially if you’re living in the Italian village of Bacheretto.
God reigns supreme in the hearts of the simple villagers, but nearly every worshipper’s God is different. Luigi Bacheretti, who sees God in frogspawn and green slime, is determined to photograph God by capturing His image on a rock or the surface of an egg, because the “poor bastard probably feels left out.” Gianni Terremoto, the baker formerly apprenticed to Luigi’s late father, honors the God of rising bread, presumably the deity who shapes each loaf and pastry he kneads into the image of one of his lover Sylvana’s ripe body parts. Gianni’s young daughter Francesca seems to worship the God of sexual awakening, and her austere employer, Father Emile Pestoso, the God of flagellation and self-discipline. Stefano Costa, the one-handed plumber, and Pia Zanetti, the one-legged dancer, have formed holy attachments to their absent limbs and the lives they dictate. The world these people share, teeming with tastes, smells, fleshly pleasures and perils, aphrodisiacs, family histories, local customs like The Kissing, and fancies of the most extravagant sort, opens like a riotous modern Eden, and Lindsay’s first novel, originally published in Australia in 1998, offers enough magic-realism miracles to buoy the dourest heart. Inevitably, however, his tale of flesh and spirit darkens, and the bodies in question, rocked by the collision of Easter and Carnival, cry out in pain as often as in joy as Gianni, whose hot cross buns have always been poor things, plans a new recipe that will bring the Bacheretti to the threshold of the Divine—with all the costs that moment entails.
Though the early going is guaranteed to whet your appetite, be warned: Lindsay makes you pay for every thrill of lust and grace.