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How Fires End: A Novel
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How Fires End: A Novel

4.83  ·  Rating details ·  59 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment f
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Little A
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Average rating 4.83  · 
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 ·  59 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens when faith blinds us to our own humanity? How Fires End is part war story and aftermath, part mythology, a lamentation shot-through with melancholy and pathos. Rafalà writes of the fathers and sons and daughters of Mellili, Sicily with such care and tenderness that to read it was like listening to the breathing out and collapse of an accordion—history folding over onto itself, sighing out a mournful story on notes of stone and stars. We yearn with David, grieve with Salvatore, shoul ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-literary
I ended up with an ARC of this book, somewhat at random, not through a giveaway. Meaning I am under no obligation to write a review. I'm just writing a review because I really enjoyed it!

How Fires End is about how a single tragedy can haunt multiple generations of a family, leaving its mark across two continents and many lives. If there's a lesson (and I'm not sure I'd call it a lesson in the "morality tale" kind of sense) it's that keeping the secrets of the past from loved ones—even when done ou
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written novel is about secrets and how they can affect a family through the generations. It's told in three parts - David, the son; Salvatore, the father and Vincenzo, a friend and father figure who helped bring Salvatore and his sister Nella from Sicily to America at the end of WWII. Even though they are a loving family they all struggle with the secrets that they keep from David.

It's very interesting the way that the author told this story -- first we see the outco
William Dameron
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This savory and captivating novel is a stunning debut. I was engrossed in this story about a rivalry between two families that was sparked during World War II in the small Sicilian town of Melilli. The author uses all of the senses in his descriptions. The story ingeniously begins with the youngest generation of the Italian/American clans in Middletown, CT with the smoldering anger of generations carried upon their shoulders. He then delves into the past, revealing the layers of this story like ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This compelling and beautifully-written book is told in three sections, each presenting a slice of history as seen through the eyes of three Sicilian-American men whose stories tragically intersect. The first part is a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s and centering David, a young man trying to grapple with a local bully who seems to hold a personal grudge against David’s family. The second part switches to Sicily, where we meet David’s father, Salvatore, growing up in Sicily amid war and tra ...more
Fran Hawthorne
Secrets beget violence through three generations, from Sicily to Connecticut, in this skillfully woven debut novel. The language is often stunning (at least, in the first half), and the reverse chronological order intensifies the unraveling.

The tragedy begins just as the Allied forces are liberating Sicily in 1943, when a munitions shell explodes in a quiet almond field, killing two young twins of the Vassallo family. After the twins’ angry, grieving brother Salvatore commits an act of sacrileg
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is told from the perspective of 3 characters. David ,the son of a rough Italian immigrant father who is trying to naviagte his way through teenage life and violent bullying in the early 80's. David;s father, Salvatore's backstory during the second world war is uncovered in the second section of the book and finally Vincenzo, a close family friend almost a second "father" to both men who is rumoured to have been a Fascist collaborator during the war. The older men's stories deal with th ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really took me by surprise because I truly did not know what to expect.

The story is written in the perspective of three individuals: David, a young, Sicilian-American boy who is struggling to understand his past and cope with the constant torment from a local bully; Salvatore, his father, who experiences tragedy at a young age in Sicily amid war and vehemently attempts to protect David; and Vincenzo, the unlikely confidant and mentor to both David and Salvatore.

The author d
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was an emotional journey I won’t soon forget. In some ways it was a page-turner because I always wanted to know what happened next. In other ways the complexity of the characters and the beauty of the writing made me want to linger over and reread many passages.

I liked each of the voices of the four main characters who narrated a section of the book: Nella, who begins and ends the book; David, a teenager coming of age in Middletown Connecticut during the 1980s; Salv
Kathleen Gray
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stick with this one. The first section tells the story of David, a teen living in Connecticut in the 1980s. You might roll your eyes a but but hang in there because there's more to him, and most especially to his father Salvatore- who doesn't come off well- than you think. There's a dramatic and unsettling event that leads you into the second section, which is Salvatore's back story in Sicily in the post WWII era. He makes complicated and not always smart decisions in his life which reverberate ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of gorgeous book that stays with you. Beautiful, tragic, hopeful -- How Fires End is an emotional family saga that is equal parts immersive historical fiction (World War II Sicily and mid-80s Connecticut), gorgeously crafted literary fiction, and startling portrait of the devastating cost of war on children and families across generations. How Fires End welcomes you into a close-knit Sicilian community and reveals the rich culture Sicilian immigrants bring with them to the Unite ...more
Jeffrey Paul Krehely
The storytelling in How Fires End is top notch, and I kept wanting to know more about the characters’ lives as the plot unfolded (especially in the first section on David, when so much is alluded to). I was struck by Rafalà’s voice throughout – it’s incredibly consistent, yet each character’s story was uniquely told.

As someone who loves plants and gardening, I appreciated the way that both consistently appeared in the story and helped frame and advance it. The contrast between David (and his mo
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In How Fires End, we meet two generations of Sicilian born men, Salvatore, the father, and the son who is Sicilian American. The book begins with the perspective of David who is a pretty interesting teen who is raised by his overbearing father who seems to have a lot of baggage and heartache from the World War. David clashes with another boy named Tony, who constantly bullies him. This ends in a pretty awful encounter, which was spoiled in the plot description, much to my chagrin. The book then ...more
Christie Grotheim
HOW FIRES END is an epic, multi-generational novel and an impressive debut. Packed with metaphor and rich descriptions, it takes us from and Italian American community in Connecticut, back through time to war-torn Italy, revealing buried secrets that led to a family’s near destruction. I enjoyed the coming of age story of David in part one, and (without revealing any spoilers) was shocked by the ending of this section. This is a story of fathers and sons, the devastation of war, family feuds, be ...more
Jason Allen
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky to receive a galley copy of this stellar debut novel. I really enjoyed the depth of the characters and the coming-of-age storyline with the character named David. The novel has a mystery element as far as the family secret that David's father has kept since his own childhood in Sicily, and the details of the post-war Sicilian American experience and the culture they bring to the east coast of the U.S. are vividly drawn. All in all, this is a rich, character-driven novel with a compel ...more
Linda Schonborn
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This intense, eventful novel is a journey through long held, life changing secrets and the consequences they hold. World War II brings unspeakable horrors to the people of Sicily, family and friends turn against each other. This only intensifies as they later migrate to the U.S. bringing their unresolved, tormented memories with them. Understanding and overcoming these mysteries is key to future happiness. Mr. Rafala does an amazing job of masterfully telling his story!
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So happy I got an ARC of Marco Rafala's upcoming book How Fires End. It’s a gripping epic family drama spanning several generations. The writing is beautiful and the characters really drew me in. It releases on 10/15 but you can pre-order now. Grab your copy and get ready to dig into a wonderful read!
Kendra Bozarth
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
HOW FIRES END is such a unique story that is also, masterfully, universal. I felt as though I bonded with the characters and both struggled and thrived as they did. This is Marco Rafalà's debut novel, and I hope it's not his last.
Scott Larner
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rafala’s well-honed instinct for figurative language and keen ear for the voice of his characters brings both 1980’s Connecticut and post-WWII Sicily to life in vivid detail, immersing the reader in a rich, well-lived-in world that seems to extend far beyond what’s on the page. Teenage David and his Sicilian-immigrant father, Salvatore, are written with a fierce, unyielding empathy. Giving both characters a complexity that allows the novel to find beautiful and unexpected moments of meaning and ...more
Julia Phillips
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Feb 05, 2019
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Marco Rafalà is a first-generation Sicilian American novelist, musician, and game writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in Fiction from The New School and is cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Fires End is his debut novel.