Damiani has followed up her beautifully written memoir, “Il Bel Centro,” with her debut novel, “Santa Lucia,” set in a place that bears much resemblance to real–life Spello, Umbria, where the author spent a year with her family.
The fictional Santa Lucia features a cast of characters embroiled in the kinds of conflicts, secrets and mysteries not uncommon to small town life anywhere—from love affairs to tragedies. But Damiani also brilliantly weaves together the rich tapestry of a modern Italian hilltop town, which often includes immigrants such as Santa Lucia’s Fatima from Morocco.
Damiani doesn’t neatly tie up all of the loose ends at the end of the book, but as “Santa Lucia” is the first installment in a series, that isn’t a problem because it successfully draws readers into its charming, fictional world, relaying a compelling story and leaving us wanting more.
Paul Austin Ardoin selected Santa Lucia to kick off his “Twelve Days of Bookmas” and wrote:
A recent selection for the 25th Annual Virginia Festival of the Book, this is a beautiful, magical novel. I'm almost never a fan of multiple interconnected character arcs, but Damiani juggles everything deftly. The plot propelled me forward deeper into the book, and the characters are all well-rounded. I was reminded at various points of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus (beautiful writing, yes, but the town is as much of a character in this book as the circus is in Morgenstern's work). I loved the characters, really feeling the emotions of a few of them, and I especially loved the magic of the city. Highly recommended.
“Santa Lucia is 'un-put-downable'! This book is for anyone who loves wandering Italian villages as well as Italian culture, language and food. A wonderful read that transports you completely into the atmosphere of everyday life in a little village that could only be in Italy. You'll love the intertwining of the stories of the many characters, the secrets and intrigue that typically though not obviously exist in a small place, the twists and turns of the general story and the dramatic final chapters, that leave you gagging for more. Roll on Book 2!”
"From the very first paragraph, I found myself intrigued. Michelle Damiani paints a complete portrait of Santa Lucia, her inhabitants and the aura of Umbria itself. The plot is well fleshed out, takes surprising and unexpected turns. It was difficult to lay the story aside. I can hardly wait for her next installment of the story of Santa Lucia. Bravo, Michelle Damiani."
"One of those books that keeps you awake at night reading. Loved the characters and the story."
"This was a fantastic read. I could not put it down. The way it ends leaves me longing for Michelle to write the sequel. Her descriptions of Santa Lucia are like reading poetry. Great Great read. You will love it!"
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It captures the atmosphere of a small Italian town so well. I really felt like I was sipping a cappuccino at the local bar and watching the stories unfold. The characters are really well written and I really cared about (most!) of them. I enjoyed picking the book up when I had a few minutes to read and looked forward to being transported to the little bar in Italy to see what was happening. Thank you Michelle for an amazing read and I'm looking forward to the sequel already.”
"I've visited Italy a few times and this book takes me back to the wonderful time spent there.
I got so lost in the characters and Michelle's description of Santa Lucia I could not stop reading. I kept saying to myself 'one more chapter!' I'm so glad this is a series because I get to keep enjoying Michelle's writing. Please hurry up and finish book 2 of the series!!!"
...see more reader reviews at the Amazon Store.