cover image The Patron Saint of Ugly

The Patron Saint of Ugly

Marie Manilla. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $13.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-544-14624-2

Manilla’s second novel is clever, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, all at once. Garnet Ferrari, of Sweetwater, W.Va., has flaming red hair and birthmarks over her entire body that create a map of the world. Intelligent and sharp-tongued, she is the product of an Italian Catholic father and a lapsed-Episcopalian mother. Garnet finds solace in her maternal grandfather’s collection of globes and her maternal grandmother’s deeply rooted beliefs—a mixture of paganism and Catholicism. After Garnet seemingly manifests magical abilities of healing, the people of Sweetwater and beyond come to believe that she is a saint. The Vatican sends out an investigator to verify Garnet’s supposed powers, which she herself doubts. It takes a while to warm up to the structure of the book, presented as a transcript of the investigator’s interview with Garnet, with occasional interruptions from her Italian grandmother and her Aunt Betty, but it’s worth it. Garnet digs through the tangled past of both bloodlines, looking for answers and learning to move toward people rather than shut them out. How she manages to do that results in a lovely, hopeful tale. [em]Agent: Kate Garrick, DeFiore and Company. (June) [/em]