David ImpastatoSeptember 6, 2010 - 9:44am0 comments
Frank X. Gaspar
Counterpoint, $15.95, 416 pp.
In a passage toward the end of Frank X. Gaspar’s Stealing Fatima, a wintry dawn on Cape Cod reveals an astonishing sight: within the ruins of a church recently destroyed by fire, a pristine statue of Our Lady of Fatima stands on a mound of cinders, a gleam of color “among the gray and cheerless arabesques of ice.” Missing from the parish for decades, the statue has suddenly reappeared, unblemished by the lost years. The mysteries of this morning lie at the heart of Gaspar’s lyrical and engrossing novel. How and why has the statue been returned? Where has it been? What part has it played in the lives of the characters the reader comes to know?
Stealing Fatima is Gaspar’s second novel, and like his first, Leaving Pico, its setting resembles the Provincetown, Massachusetts, of the author’s childhood. The original settlers of Gaspar’s seaside town emigrated from the Azores and the Portuguese coast, bringing with them their fishing trade, their festivals, and their abiding sense of the sacred. Now the descendants of the velhos mingle with seasonal boarders and “People from Away”—with artists, gays, and single parents, all drawn to the town’s charm and natural beauty.
The book’s central character, Fr. Manuel Furtado, is pastor of Our Lady of Fatima parish, home of the long-missing statue. Manny is a popular priest who speaks the language, both old and new, of his diverse flock. His parish numbers are growing; his accounts are...