Lives of the Saints

Nino Ricci's classic bestseller is a poignant coming-of-age story and a searing look at a post-war Italy.

Nino Ricci

When young Vittorio Innocente's mother, Cristina, is bitten by a snake during an encounter with a blue-eyed stranger, the superstitions and prejudices rampant in their small Italian town immediately boil to the surface. For the independent-minded Cristina, however, the worst is yet to come, as the townsfolk notice the swell of her stomach. The villagers, and even her father, the Mayor, ostracize and isolate her. Vittorio, meanwhile, barely grasping the situation, is taunted by the children at school, befriended only by a compassionate teacher who gives him her valued copy of Lives of the Saints, which he pores over as an escape from his daily torments.

Eight months pregnant and unable to abide her treatment in the village any longer, Cristina books a passage to Canada for herself and Vittorio — but not to join her husband Mario, who sailed there when Vittorio was only an infant. Nino Ricci's classic bestseller is a poignant coming-of-age story and a searing look at a post-war Italy. (From Cormorant Books)

Lives of the Saints won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award (now known as the First Novel Award) in 1990.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

If this story has a beginning, a moment at which a single gesture broke the surface of events like a stone thrown into the sea, the ripples cresting away endlessly, then that beginning occurred on a hot July day in the year 1960, in the village of Valle del Sole, when my mother was bitten by a snake.

Valle del sole — which was not in a valley at all, but perched on the north face of Colle di Papa about three thousand feet above the valley floor — had no culinary specialities, no holy sites, no ancient ruins; forgotten and unsung, it was one of a hundred villages just like it flung across the Italian Apennines like scattered stones.

From Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci ©2008. Published by Cormorant Books.

Author interviews

Nino Ricci on being a "Generation One"

9 years ago
Occupation: Novelist Born: Leamington, Ontario Heritage: Italian 2:04
The author of the novel Sleep on what he'd like to change about himself, why his favourite characters are deeply flawed, even despicable, and more. 6:16