A Kiss from Maddalena

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9780425196427: A Kiss from Maddalena

One of the few remaining men in the village of Santa Cecilia during the Second World War, Vito Leone falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the town's most powerful family despite their disapproval and seeks to prove himself when Germany seizes control. Reader's Guide available. Reprint.

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Review:

In Santa Cecilia, Italy, in the spring of 1943, the war is closing in. Vito Leone, a scrawny, clownish boy, not quite 18, is still at home, while his slightly older contemporaries have already gone off to fight. He is filling the days until he leaves by courting the town beauty, 15-year-old Maddalena Piccinelli, daughter of the region's most successful merchant. The title of Christopher Castellani's debut novel, A Kiss from Maddalena, is only part of Vito's plan.

The road through Santa Cecilia is "one of the widest in Italy." When Italy joins the Allies, it becomes a conduit for German invasion, causing the Santa Ceciliese to leave for more remote places. Vito stays to care for his chronically ill mother. He and Maddalena share a poignant parting, amid tears and promises. During their two-year separation, they continue to believe that they will be reunited, with her family's approval. Vito sets out to ingratiate himself to the Piccinellis in their absence by refurbishing their house, which has been ravaged by soldiers. When they return, Maddalena's mother, Chiara, says, "I am grateful ... but it's too much ... I don't like when people do things for me; I don't like the obligation. I don't trust anyone anymore." She does find it in her heart to trust one man with her daughter, however, and it isn't Vito.

Castellani's debut carries echoes of other love and war stories, such as Chocolat, Birdsong, and Corelli's Mandolin. It is a tribute to his Italian-American roots, capturing time, place and circumstance in broad strokes, but also rendering the subtleties of hope and expectation, longing and despair. --Valerie Ryan

About the Author:

Christopher 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.

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