Most of us who washed ashore as children in the great, postwar waves of emigration from Europe were eventually absorbed into American society, became American society, and retained little more than a hyphenated sense of our heritage.
However, in our parents, who gave up their Old World to give us the New, we may sometimes recognize a belonging to another place, a longing for the life they might have lived. We see them today, these aging expatriates and accented colonists, reverting to old ways, reliving old times, retelling old tales, as if nothing of any significance had touched their lives since the day their ship docked in New York Harbor. We, their children, were raised on a diet of Sunday-supper reminiscences that embellished our own faint memories of “home.”
Now, as we approach middle age in what for some of us has become a tedious and unfulfilling American dream, there is occasionally awakened in us that same ancestral longing. In my novel, Restoration, a demoralized American businessman named Stefano Strazzi revisits his birthplace in the mountains of southern Italy, where he succumbs to an ever-deepening, ultimately hopeless enchantment. Helplessly prolonging his sojourn at the risk of his marriage, he rediscovers illusions of childhood, meddles in a poet’s misguided romance and becomes embroiled in a deadly vendetta a half century old. This is the story of a man’s quest for spiritual renewal, a town’s attempt to restore its crumbling medieval church and the forces that conspire against both. The plot weaves an intricate, epic tale of fraud and vengeance gone tragically awry.
Restoration is set in the fictional Roccamonti, a town on a windswept outcropping of rock along the spine of the Calabrian Apennines, a town not unlike the very real Pedivigliano where I was born. The least known and most unspoiled region of Italy, Calabria occasionally commands the world’s attention with spectacles of calamity and violence. But through history it has also been a sanctuary of intellect and art, nourishing genius and madness alike. The artist M.C. Escher, whose perspective enters into the story, found Calabria wondrously enthralling, yet disorienting. It is against this landscape that my novel unfolds.
“Murder and kidnapping aren’t what most readers expect in a coming-home-again narrative. Cross-cultural immigrant stories that are tinged with reminiscence, nostalgia, and a bit of angst are more the norm. But Joe Costanzo breathes new life into the genre with this heartfelt, but violent and vengeful novel of remembrance and identity.”
“A journalist’s carefully plotted story shines in its depiction of Italian culture.”
“Restoration is a riveting novel of faith and small town life, very much recommended.”
“A veteran journalist, (Costanzo) displays a fine eye for detail, and as a novelist, he adds to his reputation as an excellent storyteller.”
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