Fear the curses of Sicilian saints. They will follow you across the ocean. This is a core belief of the Sicilian-American community at the center of Marco Rafalà’s novel, How Fires End. The legend of St. Sebastian is at the source of Rafalà’s story of grief and migration, devotion and betrayal, of what it means still to inhabit Sicily while living in America. Rafalà’s artfully constructed novel draws us into an immigrant community haunted by multiple losses, some recent, others distant in time, as well as geography, but not any less raw. Indeed, the losses that occurred in Sicily represent the matrix of all losses that follow.

Legend has it that St. Sebastian found his way to Sicily in 1414, when a ship coming from the Adriatic sank near the island of Magnisi. No one died, and that miraculous event was attributed to the presence of the statue of...

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