30 October 2019

How Fires End | Book Review


A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.

Written with elegiac prose, How Fires End delves into the secret wars of men; the sins they cannot bury; and a life lived in fear of who will reveal them, who will survive them, and who will forgive them.

Publisher: Little A
Release Date: October 15, 2019


Marco RafalĂ ’s How Fires End is a transporting story. With exquisite language and storytelling, he brings to life an experience deeply rooted in Sicilian culture and World War II. It unfolds in reverse over the course of three generations and conveys grief, loss, revenge, guilt, secrets, and more.

I struggled to get into this book mostly, I think, because based on the blurb, I expected the setting of How Fires End to be World War II-era Sicily primarily. However, the first half focuses on David, Salvatore’s son, in 1986 Connecticut as he unravels his family history, and I was confused about the overall trajectory of the story. However, with the change to Salvatore’s perspective (and then, later to Vincenzo’s), it all began to make sense to me.

So, I think that with the right expectations, readers of historical fiction could easily love How Fires End. Definitely check it out if it piques your interest. 


I received a complimentary copy of this book and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.


Marco RafalĂ  is a first-generation Sicilian American, novelist, musician, and writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in fiction from The New School and is a cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Fires End is his debut novel.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours