The Patron Saint of Ugly
Written by the 2021 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence.
With its irresistible blend of Southern Gothic and Sicilian malocchio, a lush, exuberant tale of a reluctant saint, her unforgettable family, and the myriad difficulties we all face when it comes to loving and being loved.
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, 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, determined to debunk this gift, reaches back into her family's tangled past and unspools a story 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.