Tempting Faith DiNapoli by Lisa Gabriele (Doubleday), 291 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Just in time for the Pope's visit, Lisa Gabriele releases her comic debut novel about growing up Catholic in small-town Ontario. Thing about being born Catholic is, you can't change it -- you can only cope with it. Title character Faith DiNapoli does that, barely, and only because she's whip-smart and very funny. She really, really wants to be a good Catholic girl, but she's sorta mad at her mom and dad for separating and she can't figure out why her siblings are so weird. Before she knows it, she's stealing, fucking -- or getting fucked, actually -- and reading from her mom's diary. Plus, people keep dying in ways that make it feel like it's her fault. And Catholic guilt can work in powerful ways.
Author Gabriele knows this terrain intimately, and it shows in her effortless writing and in the sharp details. An episode in which Faith loses her virginity to a rubber-gloved border guard is funnier than you'd think it could be. And the protracted description of her childhood crush Adam heading down alcoholism's rocky road is devastating.
Gabriele's got the goods.