The Patron Saint of Second Chances, by Christine Simon

Sometimes, you just need to read something silly, something that puts a smile on your face and lets your brain relax. The Patron Saint of Second Chances, by Christine Simon, is exactly that kind of book. This book has one of the most ludicrous plots I’ve ever read and I enjoyed every page of it. I wasn’t worried about what would happen in the end—because like so many of the characters—I had faith that it would all work out. I don’t consider myself nearly as religious as protagonist Nino Speranza (whose surname means hope in Italian), who searches out saints to help him with his various problems, but I do believe that there’s someone looking out for fools trying to do good deeds.

Speranza is the mayor of the declining Italian village of Prometto (“I promise,” in Italian), although the villagers come to him with problems about their dogs more often than they do about real problems. As The Patron Saint of Second Chances opens, Speranza is dealing with an actual problem. An official has just found serious problems with the village’s plumbing. If Prometto can’t pay the 60,000 Euro repair bill, its water supply will be cut off and the villagers relocated elsewhere. Prometto would be no more. Speranza breaks into a desperate, furtive panic that lasts nearly the entire course of the novel. He decides not to tell anyone as he works out a way to save Prometto. This turns out to be a good thing as Speranza’s plan is, essentially, lying his ass off to everyone in the village.

The big lie Speranza tells is that Dante Rinaldi, the current hunk-du-jour of Italian cinema, is coming to Prometto to make a film. (This lie is based on a story a sketchy friend tells him about a neighboring town that experienced a surprise boom when it was rumored that George Clooney was going to buy a house there.) Like all big lies, Speranza’s story quickly spirals out of control. His assistant at his vacuum repair business transforms himself into a screenwriter and director and actor (standing in until Dante arrives). His daughter offers to do make-up. The richest man in town is conned out of most of the cost of the repair for the promise that Speranza will put his most handsome son in the movie. The first person to start asking questions is the village priest, but Speranza becomes very adept at dodging his old friend.

I know that there’s no way that Speranza will get away with his mad scheme, of course, but I hoped that he would be able to get along with it long enough to be able to save Prometto for at least a few more years. He tap-dances just as fast as he can and he, along with his assistant Smilzo, seem to have just enough daft luck to make it possible that they might be able to pull it off. I won’t ruin the ending and tell you all whether or not that happens. Instead, I’ll just say that the ending is the cherry on top of this confection of a novel.

If your brain needs a little getaway to small-town Italy, I recommend The Patron Saint of Second Chances.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.

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