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Secrets of SantAngelo
Set in a storybook vision of
As the novel opens, the townsfolks collective mood and luck mirror the weather--never-ending rains give way to a portentously cold and snowy winter. Ttownsfolk suffer all sorts of private misfortunes; some believe they have been cursed. The pious in particular seem convinced sfortuna (bad luck) has taken up residence in their lives. Into the scene of a domestic spat between single mother Petula (whose father is the title subject of Shapiros first novel Renato's Luck) and her partner, Daniele, the resentful and volatile owner of the train station bar, come two outsiders: sunny, busty Rosa Spina (thorny rose) and her disquietingly somber, charismatic, faith-healer son Emanuele Mose.
The pair quickly get to work, mesmerizing many of the townsfolk and offering fresh fodder for the gossip mill. Soon illusions are spun and the certitude of reality no longer seems what it once was. The pair are really only catalysts for the magic transformations of real life. Capelli, the simple laborer soon falls in love with Rosa Spina. The village priest is at war with Emanuele Mose. Na´ve widows are conned, people are mysteriously hurt or killed, gossip and bad luck spread deeper. Danger lurks everywhere. As Il Piccino, the Jewish dwarf newspaper seller observes about Rosa Spinas son, 'Crazy is the sheep who confesses to the wolf.' You understand?
Miracles occur as well. Rosa and Sons cozy arrangement is upset almost from the start when a heretofore unmentioned twin brother, named lAltro (the other) turns up, freshly released from prison. True to the classic Romantic tradition, lAltro is everything his brother is nota free spirit, voluptuous, dangerous with his ideas, his desires, his murky criminal past. He is indeed, in some way, each villagers dark shadow other side. As he comes between his mother and brother, between Petula and Daniele, and between others, he embodies the philosophical contradiction which this novel explores -- the Law of the Excluded Middle.
The unshakable foundational Western belief in binary vision will have everything as either/or, A or not-A, as lAltro explains. (In this, he points out, Jews and Christians are one.) Something is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false. Legerdemain, every sort of conjuring succeeds to the degree that people see in either/or terms, even when the truth is plainly in front of them.
As Shapiro spins out one excluded middle after another, the enchantment of reality arises in the pages of Secrets of SantAngelo. In his second novel, Shapiro more than fulfills his promise as novelist. As the story closes, with some secrets revealed, Shapiro casts another spell upon his readers. What new secrets await these angel messengers half way up the mountain, in the excluded middle, between heaven and earth, between reality and imagination?
- Les Wright