I absolutely loved this little book. Clocking in at just 90 pages, it is the story of a man’s recollection of his childhood memory the day of the feast of St. Joseph’s day in Butera Sicily where tradition holds that the child of the poorest of families is selected to be Jesus for the day. This particular year, just before the years of World War II, the narrator is chosen, much to the embarrassment of his father who takes the child’s selection as an insult, a signal to the rest of the village that his family is the poorest, something he denies. Nevertheless, the child takes on the role with the utmost seriousness, often questioning his parents about the scriptures and the deeds of Jesus Christ, hoping that in some way, he too could perform a miracle of his own for the celebration.
Throughout the book, the scriptures aren’t so much challenged as they are questioned, as only an innocent child could question. Taking the stories of Jesus quite literally, he often finds contradicting answers to the questions he asks, sewing confusion and at the same time wonderment. It is also a wonderful portrait of rural Sicilian life just prior to the Second World War, with its ancient traditions, belief systems and just a hint of the not always so “idyllic” surroundings.
Written in a style that recalls the best of “childhood memory” stories (i.e. “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs” comes to mind) with prose that invokes poetry, myth and whimsical imagination, you can’t do wrong giving this little book a read.