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October 25, 2019

How Fires End by Marco Rafalà ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

"Sunlight shown through the bay windows and threw their shadows on the wall - small shadows cast by their younger selves.  The selves they left behind when they came here, carrying the ghosts of the people they could have been." (p 63)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

October 2019; Little A; 978-1542042970
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); historical fiction
A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

This beautifully written novel is about secrets and how they can affect a family through the generations.  It's told in three parts - David, the son;  Salvatore, the father, and Vincenzo, a friend and father figure who helped bring Salvatore and his sister Nella from Sicily to America at the end of WWII.  They all keep secrets from each other and we see the results in the first part of the novel and don't learn the secrets until later. 

The novel begins with David.  It's 1986 and David is 13 and an American born child of Italian immigrants.   He is beginning to ask his father a lot of questions -- what happened to his mother, why did the family emigrate from Sicily after WWII, why doesn't he have grandparents - but his father is reluctant to share any of the information with him.  Instead, his father remains apart from David because he doesn't share his thoughts and dreams even though he is trying very hard to be a good father.  David is being bullied by someone at school who seems to have a personal grudge against his family but David is reluctant to share the ongoing struggle with his father.

The second part of the novel takes place during and after WWII in Sicily and is Salvatore's story.  As he is growing up, something terrible happens to his twin brothers and the village decides that there is a curse on the family.  He carries the belief of the curse to America with him as he attempts to start a new life.

The third section is told by Vincenzo, a soldier during WWII who took the two war orphans - Salvatore and his sister Nella, to America after the war ended.  He was rumored to be a fascist follower during the war so he too has secrets to hide after he comes to America.  He treats David, Salvatore and Nella like his children and they look up to him and go to him with their problems.  The three of them agree that they won't discuss what happened to them in Sicily during the war to the next generation and the even though their reasons make sense, the result of that decision is catastrophic and they all learn too late that the price that was paid for their secrets was too high.

It's very interesting the way that the author told this story -- first we see the outcome of keeping secrets and then we learn the secrets and the reasons for hiding the secrets after the war.  It actually works very well and the secrets are slowly brought to light.

This is a  story of war and secrets, family betrayals and family curses that can cause irreparable harm when they are carried into the next generation. The writing is beautiful and the descriptions of Sicily are incredible.  I highly recommend this beautiful novel about family and secrets.

"When my father told me that story, he was trying to tell me how my nonnu once thought of Sicily as a bright star in the night sky and how all men's wars would one day end, but the sky and those stars, they were infinite.  My nonnu was wrong.  Stars were fires and they burned like wars burned and they ended too." (p 135)

Buy How Fires End at Amazon

About the Author

Marco Rafalà is a first-generation Sicilian American novelist, musician, and game writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in Fiction from The New School and is cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Fires End is his debut novel.  Author Links: Twitter and Instagram

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. This sounds intense but beautiful- I can't wait to read it. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours