A man’s return to his childhood home in Italy connects him to the controversial attempts to restore an old church.
The new novel from Costanzo (Graphic Times, 2008) first follows Carlo Strazzi, a teacher in the fictional mountain town of Roccamonti in the province of Calabria, Italy, where life centers on family ties and the crumbling church of Santa Prisca. Carlo’s brother, his brother’s wife and their son are leaving for America when old disputes come tumbling to the fore, involving the first and second restoration attempts of the church. Later, Stefano Strazzi returns to his home of Roccamonti to visit his uncle, Carlo, and becomes a benefactor of the third attempt to restore the church. Roccamonti and the slow pace of life along Via della Scala renews Stefano, and he finds he is prolonging his stay, much to the anger of his wife, who is waiting for him to join her. Stefano learns of the debate surrounding the previous restoration attempts and the anger Carlo feels toward the whole charade. As Stefano becomes reacquainted with the town of his childhood, he also becomes intertwined in the drama that continues his uncle’s bloodlust for revenge. Constanzo only reveals the intricacies of the plot at the very end of the novel, a tell-tale sign of the author’s affinity for mystery writing. The foundation of the story is laid out well, with a journalist’s attention to facts, but also working poetry and the Italian language into writing that is otherwise unemotional. While Costanzo grounds the story in the telling of Strazzi family history, the characters of the town of Roccamonti and the mystifying back story, the climax comes late with the resolution feeling rushed and confused. Despite the shaky ending, Costanzo’s second novel is bolstered by his intimate knowledge of life in an Italian village.
A journalist’s carefully plotted story shines in its depiction of Italian culture.