A brilliant novel packed with delights: grand romance, alchemical potions, violins to make you weep, commedia dell’arte theatre, reappearing comets, rambling skeletons and cracks in time.
It is 1682 in Cremona, Italy. With his manservant, an insolent dwarf named Omero, Fabrizio Cambiati, a priest, climbs the town clocktower to await the return of a comet that is said to reappear in the skies every 76 years. He has a new invention called a telescope with which to scour the night. As they await the comet, he scopes the town below and sees the commedia dell’arte players setting up in the town square and a Jesuit arriving in a carriage. We later learn that the Jesuit is Michele Archenti, a Devil’s Advocate sent from Rome to investigate the candidacy for sainthood of this same Fabrizio Cambiati - 76 years later!
The novel then begins again, this time in 1758 when Archenti settles himself in the town to assume his investigations. It is his job to find the flaws in Fabrizio’s character. In this attempt, he interviews a number of citizens, including an old duchess who holds a secret about Fabrizio’s life that would ruin the reputation of this priest, who was both a hidden alchemist and healer. The play held in the town square connects the two time periods by reflecting the goings-on in the wider world. We meet the players, as well as the duke, his beautiful daughter, a happy madman roaming the countryside with a skeleton on his back, and a hunchback who lives with his mastiff in a labyrinthine palace that is, like imagination itself, continually mutating. With enormous assurance and a wonderful affection for his characters, Mark Frutkin has woven a miraculous tale that explores the ambiguous nature of reality and on every page packs joy into the listening.
A wild alchemical mix of comedy and drama, mystery and romance coalesce in Fabrizio’s Return the story of Fabrizio, a priest in Cremona Italy 1682, and the church appointed "Devil’s Advocate" who is sent from Rome 76 years later to investigate Fabrizio’s possible canonization. The peculiar and diverse cast of characters present here gives stage and vocal actor Todd Haberkon ample opportunity to develop sometimes subtle and often sidesplittingly extravagant characters.
The two settings and their inhabitants interweave beautifully, connected by a comet that returns every 76 years. You also will feel the grip of time and won't want to stop listening as the actions of the Earth seem to take on the power of soaring celestial bodies.
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