Santa Lucia, Book 1 • By Michelle Damiani • ★★★★★
Santa Lucia is a wonderful, sprawling, satisfying novel.
Set in an idyllic fictional small Umbrian town, Santa Lucia explores the lives of some of the townspeople. Elements of mystery, romance, and drama, as well as a splash of magical realism, give the book a feel of a telenovela, although without the over-the-top drama.
Multiple interconnected character arcs, when done poorly, are confusing or forced. These arcs, however, are managed expertly. The plot propelled me forward deeper into the book, and the main characters are all well-rounded.
I was reminded at various points of other novels I've enjoyed. The city is almost its own character in Santa Lucia, much like the circus in Erin Morgenstern's wonderful debut novel The Night Circus—and like Morgenstern, Damiani crafts some gorgeous turns of phrase and beautiful scenes. The construction of the plot and the intersection of all the characters is reminiscent of J.K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (although thankfully the characters are much easier to root for in Santa Lucia). And the way the city influences the lives, the loves, and the losses of the townspeople reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I loved the characters, really feeling the emotions of a few of them, and I especially loved the way the city as a character is interwoven throughout. This was my favorite novel of 2017.
—Paul Austin Ardoin