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 is less adept at fending off pilgrims who have set up a 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 traces 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.
"Manilla has created a complex, endearing character, whose story will absorb readers from beginning to end. Beautifully written, filled with detailed prose meant to be savored." —Booklist
"Clever, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, all at once . . . A lovely hopeful tale." —Publishers Weekly
"In The Patron Saint of Ugly, Marie Manilla strikes the balance between religious optimism and pessimism needed for a true work of magical realism that doesn't preach or belittle." —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"This book is a divinely feminist celebration of the sacred synergy that exists between women."
—Feminism and Religion
"A cleareyed, touching fable of a girl learning the hard truths about herself and others." —Kirkus Reviews
"Marie Manilla's novel is a boisterous dazzler, thick with humor and steeped in a rich mythology. The Patron Saint of Ugly packs a hard emotional punch without ever losing its charm or its hopeful heart."
—Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama
"Marie Manilla has written more than a novel; she's written what we used to call a tale. It's all here, folks, the whole world. How does Manilla write about God and history and love and loss and make it all so miraculously readable? How does she make this book so much fun, even as it breaks your heart? Beats me, but she did it."
—Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish
"A vastly entertaining story of a reluctant saint, her indelible nonna, and their family's long history of love, trickery and transcendence. I can't imagine any reader not enjoying Manilla's sparkling tale, or the girl who tells it."
—Whitney Otto, author of How to Make and American Quilt
"The Patron Saint of Ugly is steeped in magic—it will make you laugh, fill you with wonder and break your heart all at once. A rich and energetic tale of love, family, and the hazy lines between reality and myth."
—Zoë Ferraris, author of Finding Nouf
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