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THE HUNGER SAINT

From the Via Folios series , Vol. 120

A well-crafted and affecting literary tale about a young Italian miner.

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A debut novella tells the story of child workers laboring in Sicily’s sulfur mines.

Sicily, 1948. After his father is killed in a mining accident, 12-year-old Ntoni is sent by his mother to take the dead man’s place: “She signed Ntoni over to the Miniera Cozzo Disi mines to work off the soccorso morto, a loan given to his family on the promise of his labor.” The contract is for seven years. As one of the carusi—or child miners—Ntoni faces backbreaking conditions that will likely lead to a premature death. He has no recourse but to pray to St. Calogero, the Hunger Saint, and hope that his indentured servitude will pass quickly. When the mine’s mechanic, Ziu Peppi, tells the boy that his father had been putting money away to immigrate to France, Ntoni is offered the same opportunity. He could escape his life and build a new one abroad, though he is unsure what this might mean for his family and its debt with the mining company. His mother assures him that his father had planned no such thing, but Ntoni decides to trust the mechanic—though to trust anyone, it turns out, may be just as dangerous as gas pockets, tunnel collapses, and the brutality of the mine bosses. Cerrone tells her story in a deliberative prose flecked with Italian terms and mining jargon, perfectly evoking both the setting and time period of this piece of historical fiction. The tale brings to mind American literary realism of the early 20th century—Upton Sinclair, Jack London—as well as the books of midcentury Sicilian writers like Leonardo Sciascia. Cerrone uses Ntoni’s experiences to shed light on the little-remembered soccorso morto practice, which held thousands of children in virtual slavery. The most memorable elements of the novella are the horrific conditions in which Ntoni and his peers must toil: “Each month at least one miner or caruso perished in some way. Yet they continued to work, resigned to their proximity to death.” In this proximity, Cerrone seeks to discover the necessities of life.

A well-crafted and affecting literary tale about a young Italian miner.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59954-106-8

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Bordighera Press

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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