cover image The Shrine

The Shrine

Rudolf Steiner, Christina Odone, Cristina Odone. Trafalgar Square Publishing, $26 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-297-81661-4

""San Lorenzo, Italy: a handful of farmhouses, a cemetery, a church... nestled among undulating hills of ripening vineyards"" is the setting for this beguiling debut. The village seems picture-perfect--indeed a shrine to the simple life--until we meet some of its denizens. Little had changed over the centuries until the death of the leading citizen, Marcantonio Ferrati. His demise, exposing a mysterious astronomical debt, triggers a series of events that will leave nothing in San Lorenzo unaltered. His grown children, Alma and Francesco, suddenly find themselves poor and homeless. At the public auction, once kind and respectful neighbors turn rapacious, fiercely outbidding one another in their greed for pieces of the Ferrati estate, which they carry home like sacred relics. Mayor Battistini, Marshal Ciuffi and Father Don Luigi form a triumvirate to replace the toppled family regime. Eager to boost the local economy, they mastermind a wild scheme to transform their village into ""the newest Marian shrine, attracting throngs of pilgrims from the four corners of the world."" Never mind that they must stretch the truth a bit to convince ecclesiastical powers in Rome that they have a bona fide saint. Leavened with humor, sweet nostalgia and a wry assessment of human nature, this is a satisfying tale. (Sept.)