Synopses & Reviews
It is the spring of 1943, and most of the young men of the village of Santa Cecilia have gone to war. For Vito Leone, time is short. A few months shy of the draft, he has begun to woo the beautiful Maddalena Piccinelli, the daughter of the town's most powerful family. No matter that her parents dismiss him as a mammoni, a mama's boy, or that her older sister has publicly called him a fool. Even his best friend thinks he's in over his head. But Maddalena sees the romantic side of Vito, his humor and tenderness. As the war intensifies, so do her feelings toward her unlikely suitor.
When the Italians surrender to the Allies and the retreating German soldiers invade Santa Cecilia, everyone flees except Vito and his mother. Alone amidst the ruins of his beloved village, Vito, with ingenuity and boundless devotion, comes up with the perfect plan to prove himself deserving of Maddalena. The Piccinellis and the rest of the villagers return home after the war to find that Vito has made some surprising changes. Now, only one man a visitor from America stands in his way, and Maddalena is faced with an impossible choice.
"Castellani creates a velvety, cinematic atmosphere a touch clichéd, but rich and effective nonetheless. Like a Verdi opera, Castellani's story creates a certain grandeur out of its own lightness." Publishers Weekly
"In strong and eloquent prose....Castellani, writing of passion without affectation or exaggeration, deftly exposes the heart scarred by war." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Not perfect, but Castellani's faultless reproduction of a distant time and place, his elegant, eloquent prose, and his warm sympathy mark him as a talent to watch." Kirkus Reviews
As World War II rages ever closer to his small Italian village, young Vito just a few months shy of turning 18 will soon face challenges far more daunting than coaxing a kiss from the beautiful girl of his dreams.
Some in Santa Cecilia think that a rich, beautiful girl like Maddalena Piccinelli wouldn't look at Vito Leone if he were the last boy on earth. But it is 1943, and Vito is nearly the last boy in the village-and in a few months, after he turns eighteen, the soldiers may come for him too. For now, he is determined to win her. And he is beginning to get past her self-contained reserve and melt her stubborn heart. But as forces from the world outside-including an American stranger-begin to invade their quiet refuge, Vito will face challenges far more daunting than coaxing a kiss from Maddalena.
About the Author
Castellani is a first-generation Italian American. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he received an MA in English from Tufts University and an MA in creative writing from Boston University.