Monday, March 20, 2017

Author Marie Manilla



The Patron Saint of Ugly
By Marie Manilla

A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman




Our March library bookclub meeting was full of excitement as many gathered to discuss The Patron Saint of Ugly. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend because I have been very ill. The flu has really hit me hard and when I first read this book, I thought the fever was getting to me but after chatting with Linda Mary over the phone, I was correct with the plot. Marie Manilla is extremely creative and her characters are not only very developed but have such personality that they jump off the page. 

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia, with a mop of flaming red hair and a map of the world rendered in port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari is used to being an outcast. With her sharp tongue, she has always known how to defend herself against bullies and aggressors, but she finds she is less adept at fending off the pilgrims who have set up a veritable tent city outside her hilltop home, convinced that she is Saint Garnet, healer of skin ailments and maker of miracles. 

Her grandmother, the indelible Nonna Diamante, believes that Garnet’s mystical gift can be traced back to the family’s origins in the Nebrodi Mountains of Sicily, and now the Vatican has sent an emissary to Sweetwater to investigate. Garnet, wanting nothing more than to debunk this “gift” and send these desperate souls packing, reaches back into her family’s tangled past and unspools for the Church a tale of love triangles on the shores of the Messina Strait; a sad, beautiful maiden’s gilded-cage childhood in blueblood Virginia; and the angelic, doomed boy Garnet could not protect.
Saint or not, Garnet learns that the line between reality and myth is always blurred, and that the aspects of ourselves we are most ashamed of can prove to be the source of our greatest strength, and even our salvation.”

Nonna Diamante was by far my favorite character. From her eccentric Italian superstitions to her quick wit to solving problems warm the reader’s heart. Imagine a Sicilian grandmother living in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia warding off the Irish Catholics. Moreover, Garnet who is a feministic strong willed young woman is on a path to prove who she really is. There are several emotional subplots in the novel. My heart broke for Garnet as she learns of the abuse of her brother and then two close characters in the novel die. Without giving away the novel this is where I felt the book became a much more intense read than the sarcastic humor at the beginning. However, I still laugh at the scene when Garnet knocks the mole off the priest face.  

At the beginning of the novel, Garnet sees herself as a monster.

“Mom held me towards them. “Isn’t she beautiful? Isn't she absolutely beautiful?"
Perhaps it was hormones talking; more likely, those were the words of a desperate woman who couldn't fathom the monster she had knit together in her room. But I was her monster, and if she didn't claim me, nobody would.”


The changes in Garnet are very well done and you the reader will be more than satisfied. It is very rare when all that attend our bookclub meetings enjoy the book. The only thing that I did not like in this novel was that it read very slow in some areas. I feel that when I am counting how many more pages till the end of the chapter then it is not holding my attention. Yet, we all enjoyed the novel and Linda Mary did a great job telling me about the bookclub meeting. I look forward to reading other books by Marie Manilla in the future. I rate this book four stars.

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