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Vince Sgambati. Standing Stone, $18 trade paper (328p) ISBN 979-8-88896-565-8
A gay adoptee comes of age in 1960s Queens, N.Y., in this introspective if uneven novel from Sgambati (Most Precious Blood). As a grade-schooler, Gianni Paganucci absorbs his adoptive father Liberato’s love of movies. Gianni likes to imagine that Anna Magnani, who played a troubled pregnant woman in A Rose Tattoo, is his birth mother. He bonds with Raffaella Tedeschi, a 40-something patron of Liberato’s bakery and fellow cinephile, who tells Gianni about the Holocaust and having survived Buchenwald. Sgambati then fast forwards to 1969 and Gianni’s freshman year at a college in Vermont, where he falls into a love triangle with a male classmate named Owen and their female friend. Heartbroken and ashamed over Owen’s rejection, he drops out after one semester. On returning to New York to work at Liberato’s bakery, Gianni starts exploring Greenwich Village’s queer community, where he meets flamboyant Black drag queen Gabriel, a mother hen to lost queer boys like Gianni and witness to the recent 1969 Stonewall riots. A poignant scene connects Gabriel’s older lover Gunter, who also survived Buchenwald, with Raffaella, who turns out to be a much more intriguing and well-rounded character than the novel’s aimless protagonist. Still, Sgambati has a knack for convincingly portraying characters attempting to rebuild their lives after painful events. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 10/13/2023

Release date 02/01/2023