The Straw Obelisk: A World War II Novel

Adolph Caso, Author
Adolph Caso, Author Branden Books $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8283-2005-4
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When Maria learns that her son, Samuele, is on his way home to their small Neapolitan village after three years in the Italian army during WWII, she is more worried than happy, and with good reason: her daughter has borne a child out of wedlock, and it is the responsibility of the man of the house to discipline the wayward woman. But Samuele, who has seen too much cruelty and death, forgives his sister and takes to the child as his own, much to the surprise and disappointment of the villagers. Samuele is also determined to pick up where he left off with Franca, his childhood sweetheart, a relationship complicated by her family's disapproval of him--a twist that leads to a Romeo and Juliet-style subplot. This intrigue unfolds against the background of preparations for the feast of the Straw Obelisk, a religious festival in which a nine-story cathedral of straw is pulled through the village streets by six teams of oxen. Caso's (We, the People) prose can be a disconcerting blend of the mawkish (``I'd like to count the stars in your eyes'') and the apparently anachronistic (one character is described as an ``air head''), and his story, despite some rude charm, is as lightweight and disposable as a paper hat. Photographs. (July)
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