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About The Book

The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this “charming farce that highlights the triumph of hope and community” (People).

Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a problem: unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all the residents will be forced to disperse. In a desperate bid to boost tourism—and revenue—he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby.

Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well, and soon everyone wants to be a part of the fictional film—the village butcher will throw in some money if Speranza can find roles for his fifteen enormous sons, Speranza’s wistfully adrift daughter reveals an unexpected interest in stage makeup, and his hapless assistant Smilzo volunteers a screenplay that’s not so secretly based on his undying love for the film’s leading lady. To his surprise—and considerable consternation, Speranza realizes that the only way to keep up the ruse is to make the movie for real.

As the entire town becomes involved (even the village priest invests!), Signor Speranza starts to think he might be able to pull this off. But what happens when Dante Rinaldi doesn’t show up? Or worse, what if he does?

A “warmhearted, original gem of a novel” (Amy Poeppel, author of Musical Chairs), The Patron Saint of Second Chances is perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman and Maria Semple.

Reading Group Guide

The Patron Saint of Second Chances Discussion Questions

The idea for The Patron Saint of Second Chances originated in part from news stories about tiny villages in Italy that are teetering on the brink of extinction. In a number of these towns, the mayors have come up with clever marketing ploys in an effort to drum up tourism or encourage new residents, such as selling homes for a dollar, or, in the small town of Falciano del Massico, passing a law making it illegal to die—who wouldn’t want to live there, right?! If you were the mayor of one of these villages, what would you do to save it?

Signor Speranza is a character who is preoccupied with the past. Throughout the novel, he is frequently prompted to remember a specific event by some external stimulus—the scent of a flower, the taste of a certain food, a dream, a song. Which of Signor Speranza’s memories did you enjoy the most? Have you had similar experiences, where one of your senses unexpectedly triggered a forgotten memory?

Signor Speranza regards the butcher, Signor Maestro, as his nemesis. Why do you think that is? The closest these two characters come to bonding is in chapter 12, when Signor Maestro is running the craft services table at Signor Speranza’s shop. What is it that these two characters actually have in common? Knowing how the book ends, how do you see future holiday gatherings turning out?

Main characters in dramatic stories often don’t get what they want, only what they need. Comedies, on the other hand, can see the main character get both. We know what Signor Speranza wants—to save his village—but what is it that you think he needs? How does this story help him get it?

The village priest, Don Rocco, functions as a kind of moral compass for Signor Speranza, who, at one point, regards him as an “avenging angel.” Why do you think Don Rocco changes his mind about Signor Speranza’s obvious scheming? To take it one further, what do you think God thinks of Signor Speranza’s plans?

Signor Speranza is a believer in “folk Catholicism,” most notably in his dependence upon his Complete Compendium of Catholic Saints and Blessed or Beatified Persons, which, as Don Rocco points out, he uses much like a phone book. At the end, however, he has to let go of the semblance of control that praying to the saints gives him and take a real leap of faith. If you are a religious person, have you ever experienced anything like this?

Although Signor Speranza’s father died thirty years ago and he has no sons, he continues to call his business Speranza and Sons. Why do you think he does that? How does the change in attitude Signor Speranza experiences over the course of the story enable him to change the name of the business at the end?

At the beginning of the story, Signor Speranza is convinced that the problem with their village is “the young people.” Is he right? How does his viewpoint change by the end of the story?

Ultimately, it’s not Dante Rinaldi who saves Prometto, but the villagers’ own enthusiasm. Why is it so important at the end that Signor Speranza save the version of the movie they made?

The Patron Saint of Second Chances is a farce—a comedy in which characters and events are exaggerated, and the situation continually—and often ridiculously—gets worse and worse until a series of interwoven plot points converge for a triumphant ending. It can be tricky to make the ending of a comedy a surprise, because there is an unspoken contract between the writer and the reader that everything will turn out all right in the end. Even if you saw the ending coming a mile away, was there anything that surprised you about the way things came about? Is there anything you would have changed?

And, finally, is Signor Maestro right? Will it be a boy??

About The Author

Juliet Simon

Christine Simon grew up in a very large and very loud Italian family and now lives with her husband and four children. The Patron Saint of Second Chances is her first novel.

Why We Love It

“I could not put down this sweet, charming, earnest, and hilarious debut novel—except for my copious laugh breaks. The optimistic and hapless duo of Signor Speranza and his assistant Smilzo are the very definition of ‘quixotic.’ After a year of dark times, this novel is a ray of sunshine.”

—Kaitlin O., Editor, on The Patron Saint of Second Chances

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (April 12, 2022)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982188795

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Raves and Reviews

"A charming farce that highlights the triumph of hope and community in an often unforgiving world.” PEOPLE

"The Patron Saint of Second Chances is a rare treasure: both hilariously funny and beautifully written. I was sad to say goodbye to these delightful, large-hearted characters when I turned the final page. Sequel, please.” —Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Better Luck Next Time and Be Frank With Me

“Whimsical, quirky, and heartfelt.”—Buzzfeed

"The Patron Saint of Second Chances is the most charming, original and hilarious novel I have read in ages. I laughed out loud on almost every page. Simon is the master of creating lovable, quirky and relatable characters that feel like your best friends. All I want for Christmas is to meet Signor Speranza and have my vacuum cleaner repaired at his shop. And I'm desperate to be in the movie, with or without Dante Rinaldi. This novel is something special. Everyone with a sense of humor must pick this up immediately." —Elyssa Friedland, author of Last Summer at The Golden Hotel

"[A] sparkling, hilarious debut… Simon’s wit pervades every pages, with colorful portrayals of Speranza and the town’s quirky inhabitants. This triumphant farce is a gem.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A joyful, charming, and delightfully funny story! Take a trip to Italy and meet a gaggle of villagers whose well-intentioned mayor will stop at nothing to save his town from financial ruin. Simon’s warm-hearted, original gem of a novel is the feel-good read we all need."
—Amy Poeppel, author of Musical Chairs

“Full of slapstick humor (including a rescue from a wild goat) and a large cast of quirky characters, Simon’s debut is brimming with heart… Fans of Fredrik Backman, Phaedra Patrick, and other chroniclers of small-town humor will savor this.”Booklist (starred review)

“[A] tale that will keep you entertained from first page to last. It’s one of the most amusing novels I’ve read in years, which is just what we need in these dark times.”BookReporter

“A glorious romp of a book with a cast of characters to fall in love with. Gorgeous, hilarious and brimming with joy. Christine Simon's writing is just a delight.”—Helen Paris, author of Lost Property

“A charming, fast-paced and warm-hearted farce. Upbeat, escapist and a lot of fun.”—Caroline Hulse, author of The Adults

"A tiny Italian village becomes the center of a media storm in this humorous novel by Christine Simon." —LifeSavvy

"This charming comedy, filled with devoted and lovable characters, is a breath of fresh air.” Christian Science Monitor

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Listen List Selection

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