Stealing Fatima

Cover of Stealing Fatima

Massachusetts Center for the Book Stealing Fatima, A MassBook of the Year in Fiction.

Library Journal, starred review — A wounded healer navigates the uneasy intersections of faith, doubt, and action in this quietly brilliant novel about the mysteries of belief. Tormented by scandal and various addictions, Father Manuel Furtado struggles to heal himself and care for his church, Our Lady of Fatima.... The return of a presumed-dead childhood friend, however, leads to a series of events that plunge Furtado, and the town, deeper into its long, dark night of the soul.... VERDICT Gaspar, an award-winning poet and novelist ("Leaving Pico"), triumphs again with his unflinching portrait of doubt and devotion, demonstrating with skill and grace how the two forces simultaneously torment and uplift Fatima's parishioners. — Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Commonweal — Gaspar is a distinguished poet, and he tells his dramatic story with a poet’s contemplative sensibility and gift of language. His descriptions of Cape Cod—a place he obviously knows and loves—not only convey the look and feel of the place; they also provide intimations of the larger forces and presences that touch his characters. In a rare moment of calm, Manny lingers in the breezeway of the church after a funeral Mass, watching the mourners disperse in the rain. Gaspar renders the scene with a diction that is tactile, evocative, and free of rhetorical strain. His sure rhythms suggest the interior motions of perception, and how epiphany can steal upon us unawares, under the aspect of the ordinary: " He stood just inches inside the open doorway and witnessed the way the wind drove the raindrops into their brassy tattoo and how the downspout sputtered and gurgled. He watched the roil and spatter of the black puddles, the runoffs, the sudden rills, and in that moment he heard clearly how each separate thing registered its own report when struck by the drops—clapboard and shingle and car hood and bare tree and green tree, the asphalt and cement and brick, the tympani of the window glass. All at once. And there was in him a recognition of what peace—true peace—might possibly feel like. Just that recognition. Nothing more." ....Gaspar’s power of suggestion is perhaps what allows his novel to be about so much so comfortably. Stealing Fatima is memorably many things: a story of discovery and surprise, of friendship and love, of the intricate web that binds our personal and social lives with our lives of faith. It’s also a story of historical memory, of a region and a way of life, and of a landscape that holds its people to itself like figures in a painting. —David Impastato            more...

Provincetown Arts Magazine — Gaspar has a poet’s sensibility but also a master storyteller’s deftness. The plot courses along with swift, implacable force; there are twists and turns so riveting that a full summation would ruin what a reader will be astonished to discover on his or her own. The story brims with secrets that, spilling over, cause tidal waves.... The novel’s considerable achievement is that we read the pages eager to find out what happens next, while what we are mining are the human foibles that are, finally, inseparable from grace, inseparable from the redemption of what we have been, what we are now, what we will always be. — Katherine Vaz              more...

Booklist, starred review — Graham Greene would likely recognize the unhappy priest who emerges in the opening pages of this improbable novel: bereft of faith in church doctrine and sustained only by gin and fraudulently acquired painkillers....But one night Furtado’s dark ruminations are interrupted by the reappearance of Sarafino—a long-lost boyhood friend, now dying from AIDS and in flight from an armed-robbery warrant.... (Gaspar's) protagonist ...ministers to his distressed friend, so exposing unresolved conflicts in his own life. ...(in paticular) his involvement—decades earlier—in the impious theft of a sacred image of Our Lady of Fatima, an image embodying church teachings that Furtado cannot accept. Furtado’s perplexities over these teachings grow particularly acute when Sarafino repeatedly claims personal visions of the Virgin. Readers will fully anticipate Sarafino’s death. They will marvel, however, at where events surrounding that death finally take Furtado. A brilliant foray beyond the usual limits of fiction. — Bryce Christensen

Boston Globe — ...Gaspar’s prose, with both its deliberation and moments of uncontainable joy, is like a soaring choral Mass. Independent of religious faith, skeptic and believer alike cannot help but be swept away by the beauty of the expression. — Julie Wittes Schlack © Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

Ridge Reviews — The book is passionate, realistic about ministry and both tough and compassionate in its depictions. Gaspar writes with a keen eye to detail, history and faith. It is difficult to put this novel down once started since the reader is prompted continuously to wonder what redemption means in the village and among the characters Gaspar so lovingly describes. — Susan K. Hedahl

Kirkus Reviews "A troubled New England pastor wrestles with the mysteries of God and man. Gaspar follows up his elegant debut novel (Leaving Pico, 1999) with an equally elegiac contemplation of transgression and redemption set in the same culturally rich Portuguese stew of Provincetown, Mass. . . Gaspar crafts an eloquent, emotionally resonant story that marries the richness of his ethnic characters to the literary affections of writers like John Irving.

Publishers WeeklyIn his second novel, award-winning poet-novelist Gaspar (Leaving Pico) explores an unnamed Massachusetts burg (with a strong resemblance to Provincetown) through its Portuguese-speaking community, a collection of rich, emotionally stormy characters. Centered on Fr. Manuel Furtado, the story begins during Manny's nightly ritual of liquor, pills and prayer late on All-Hallows' Eve, when he finds his long-lost childhood friend, Sarafino Pomba, breaking into his church. Dying from AIDS and running from the law, Sarafino takes up residence in a spare room, intent on convincing Manny that he's been visited by the Virgin Mary. . . Gaspar's winding sentences keep the pace measured, but leave deep impressions regarding the fishing community and its inhabitants. . . Gaspar's masterful prose should absorb any reader intrigued by immigrant communities. (Dec.)

Additional Reviews
— Alan Caruba, Stealing Fatima chosen as a pick of the month under "Novels,
Novels, Novels!"
in Bookviews - Tuesday, December 1, 2009.

Stealing Fatima
, Frank X. Gaspar. (Counterpoint) December 2009 (416pp) ISBN-13: 978-1-58243-516-9

 order online