There is storytelling and then there are people who weave tapestry with words and build worlds with letters. Socorro Acioli is one of those people. Socorro Acioli is Homer’s contemporary. I am not exaggerating.
Fourteen-year-old Samuel’s mother has just died. An occurence she foretold a few days before her death, a talent that all of the women in her family have had, though he did not believe her. Being the only family in his life, Samuel’s only purpose is to complete her last wishes. He has to light three candles at the feet of three saints and go Cadeia to find his grandmother and the long lost father he never knew. In his journey to complete these tasks he finds himself living in the decapitated stone head of a St. Anthony statue, and while he’s there he begins to hear voices, prayers and an eerie soul stirring singing.
This story is a study in plot. It is a revelation. It is spell-binding and the very proof that We Need Diverse Books. This story is utterly Brazilian and I’m sure there is quite a bit that is lost from the Portuguese translation, but we’ll have to make do. We’re transported back in time and to place that exists and doesn’t and the beauty of it is in the names of the characters: Chico the Gravedigger, Madeinusa (a beautiful name from the side of a box – Made in USA); it is in the places: Cape Verde, Fortuleza, Candeia. In this tale, we get follow the faithless and see how they are restored, discover passion and realize the pain of loneliness and the destruction of shame, all in one tiny village.
It is a pretty short book. You could read it in a few hours, but it doesn’t need more than what is presented. It has to have been beutifully edited and there isn’t a lot of fluff. Our main character is Samuel, but there are smaller life stories that are fleshed out in the village that give the feeling of short vignettes. The language is floral without being stuffy or inaccessible and I would recommend this to upper level readers in high school while encouraging teachers and even librarians to try it as a read-aloud to younger ones.