cover image The Patron Saint of Second Chances

The Patron Saint of Second Chances

Christine Simon. Atria, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-982188-77-1

An Italian man schemes up a phony film production to save his tiny town in Simon’s sparkling, hilarious debut. Vacuum repairman and hotelier Giovannino Speranza needs €70,000 to fix Prometto’s municipal pipes or face relocation along with the other 212 inhabitants. Especially distraught over the prospect of moving away from his daughter and granddaughter, Speranza starts a wild rumor that famous actor Dante Rinaldi is coming to town to film his next project. The locals believe him and get involved, with Speranza’s employee Smilzo writing a script and starting production, led on by Speranza’s implausible explanations. Problems compound when the butcher financing the film insists his son, who has stage fright, have a role; and when Speranza’s uncle siphons off funds to build a theater for the premiere. The rumor moves beyond the town, attracting tourists for the first time in years and straining Speranza’s ability to keep things in check, especially when Dante’s agent starts making threatening calls. The ramshackle film shapes up, but every day brings a new mini catastrophe as the deadline to stop the water shutoff rapidly approaches and Speranza keeps the truth from everyone but a select few. Simon’s wit pervades every page, with colorful portrayals of Speranza and the town’s quirky inhabitants. This triumphant farce is a gem. Agent: Allison Hunter, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)