“How Fires End,” by Marco Rafalà was deep, dark and thought-provoking. It was a historical fiction about the town of Melilli in Sicily, Italy during World War II. The town is a tight-knit group of villagers, Roman Catholics with their patron Saint Sebastian, a martyr killed for his faith in the 3rd century A.D.
Rafalà’s novel is unique in that it is broken into three parts from the perspective of three crucial characters, David, son of Salvatore, whose mother died when he was young. He struggles to understand his father and his father’s secrets from his previous life in Melilli during the Great War. He struggles to find independence and prove his worth to his father.
The next part covers Salvatore’s back story. The death of his twin brothers, for which he blames himself. He struggles with his faith and the aftermath of war and flees to America, to Middletown, Connecticut, nicknamed Little Melilli, settled by many Sicilians from the Old World. Despite running from his past, he discovers that his secrets continue to follow him no matter where he goes.
The final part is from the perspective of Vicenzo, a father figure to both Salvatore and David. He never has a family of his own after the war, but takes in Salvatore and his sister Nella, helps them flee to America, and struggles with his own past, his own secrets, and the “fires” that follow him in his life.
The novel is a fast read with many intertwined intergenerational themes throughout. Despite the unique structure, Rafalà ties the stories together in a way that deepens the story as the reader learns more and more. The story is like an onion as Rafalà peels back each layer, each secret that is uncovered, each part of the past that is revealed in due time. The images and metaphors weaved throughout the story provide so much richness.
I loved this book and think that anyone interested in history, specifically World War II would love it as well. It is so well-written, the story is so rich, the characters really come alive, this book has real depth and heart that is uncommon in so many novels written today.
I received this eBook free of charge from Little A via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I did not receive any fiscal compensation from either company for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.