THE MIRACLES OF SANTO FICO
Smith chronicles a series of romantic and religious shenanigans in his debut novel, a pleasant but meandering affair set in the tiny Italian village of Santo Fico, where residents capitalize on the local tourist trade by diverting buses to a religious fresco depicting the miracles of St. Thomas. On the temporal plane, the novel revolves around the adventures of middle-aged Leo Pizzola, who returns to Santo Fico from Chicago. He tries to rekindle his unrequited romance with Marta Fortino, the town beauty, who makes her living by cooking for the incoming tourists. He also renews his friendship with several old comrades, but his troubled relationship with the local priest, Father Elio, surfaces when Leo steals a piece of the St. Thomas fresco during an earthquake that nearly destroys the work of art. To help Elio get over his subsequent crisis of faith (and to win Marta's heart), he tries to make his own miracle by repairing an old fountain in the middle of town. Smith's writing is long on Old World charm and the details of village life early on, but the dearth of a strong central plot undercuts the strong beginning. He has a nice feel for his Italian setting and an obvious love for his quirky characters, but the combination of nuance and atmosphere isn't enough to carry an entire novel. Agent, Liv Blumer. (Jan. 8, 2003)
Forecast:Foreign rights have been sold in Germany, Holland, Japan, Spain and the U.K.; Smith will embark on an author tour of three Northwest cities; and ads in Time and People will further boost sales. Browsers will be drawn in by the cover art, which practically screams "Tuscany!"