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Via Dolorosa [Hardcover]

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Item description for Via Dolorosa by Damien Malfi Ronald...

A young soldier and his wife go on an idyllic island vacation but they can't escape a tragic past that is slowly unraveling their future, even as they try desperately to hang on to each other. A story of war, love, and moral fortitude, told from the perspective of a man who must reexamine his concept of everything he once believed to be right when everything has gone wrong.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   268
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 15, 2007
Publisher   Raw Dog Screaming Press
ISBN  1933293217  
ISBN13  9781933293219  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Via Dolorosa?

After sorrow comes Malfi  Jun 1, 2007
When a single cicada lighting on a window creates a climactic tension, compressing all the sorrows of war and relationships into one moment, I know that a novelist has been hard at work, though subtly, from the start. In Via Dolorosa by Ronald Damien Malfi, two children stand at a hotel window, observing the cicada suctioned to the outside, tapping at it when it doesn't move, rattling the panes, and rousing their mother to whisk them away. The cicada remains undisturbed. Malfi gives us one small moment of human curiosity and determination against unflinching nature, and that one moment compresses the horrors of war, the sadness of failed relationships, and the inconsolable sorrow of loss, into the epicenter of the difficult dream that is this novel. From there, what has been smoldering explodes to a final, uneasy release.

Nick D'Nofrio is haunted by his time in Iraq, and the idyllic hotel that is the setting of his honeymoon becomes the heart of guilt and sadness. And Nick isn't alone. A seductive, consuming photographer, who had been brutally raped, films the ruins of the island's storms and tells Nick she wants to photograph the dead children in Iraq, how they're piled in trucks and their "heads turn funny on their necks when they are lifted from the streets." The bell captain wanders the hotel, haunted by his son who died in Iraq under Nick's command, the same ghost who keeps begging Nick to shoot him in the head. Nick's wife follows the call of the limbo contests--how low can you go--watching their marriage disintegrate. A bartender rows out to sea every night in search of his drowned daughter. And the newspapers relate tales of seventeen Chinese divers drowned at sea, while the 17-year cicadas prepare for their island assault.

There is also a jazz musician who remains balanced despite the world around him, balanced under the assault of Isabella's snapshots, as "flashbulbs exploded over and over again, the light briefly igniting Claxton's black skin, over and over making him look like a skeleton." Claxton is a man with the "most unconcerned face" Nick has ever looked upon. Claxton would never find himself in war. In that he resembles the natural world around them. And it's with the natural world that the novel begins.

The setting in Via Dolorosa nearly tells the story throughout, from the rolling slopes of lawns and the verandas shaded with sweeping palms, to the onslaught of the storm that strips "the magnolias bare" and "pounds the sand and the roiling sea," to the desolate, desert landscape of Iraq that haunts Nick and obscenely materializes in the idyllic mural he was hired to paint. The reader gets their first view of the story from the outside looking in, rather than from the character looking out. But rather than create a cold distance from its characters, the effect is all-encompassing, a view of life from the largest perspectives first--from nature and time and how things move in the world, then moving closer to the immediate outskirts of this story (in small things like insecticides being sprayed, which implies by other people who have other complete lives), then finally up close with the characters of this particular tale. For me, this is how the author keeps the world always in sight and moves the reader beyond the broken specks of glass that reflect our immediate lives.

Via Dolorosa is a multi-layered, rich novel that holds the reader firm on a sorrowful journey, but instead of leaving me desolate, I'm oddly consoled. Because somehow the landscape of this author's vision makes me see past the mistakes and the horrors of humanity, see something within reach, maybe something in nature's constant rejuvenation and people's constant need to create and their longing to forgive and be forgiven. I suggest taking this path; step into Via Dolorosa and let it take you.
Ronald Damien Malfi's Via Dolorosa  Feb 18, 2007
Ronald Damien Malfi's Via Dolorosa tells the story of Nick, an artist and veteran of the war in Iraq, who stays at the Paradis d'Hotel with his new wife Emma to paint a mural, which has been commissioned by the hotel. As the novel progresses, both the mural and the events of newlyweds' stay on the island begin to reveal Nick's internal landscape, which has been forever changed by his experiences at war.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the way Malfi uses the scenery of the hotel as a metaphor for the characters' situation. For example, a motif that recurs throughout the book is the use of signs around the hotel that read "Limbo! How low can you go? Every night this week in the Riviera Room." These signs appear when Nick's situation it particularly uncertain. For example, Nick sees one of these signs when the hotel is evacuated and he finds that Emma is gone - this sign describes his indeterminate state in a subtle, clever way.

Another example of this subtle use of metaphor is the mural that Nick has been hired to paint, which turns out more violent than the plans had originally intended. For example, Malfi writes, "He had taken a beautiful island landscape, lush and green and idyllic, and had marred it, ruined it - had transformed it into a desolate desert panorama...The distinction between tropical paradise and desert holocaust was suddenly nonexistent." The aggression of the mural conveys Nick's own internal violence, which he tries to suppress but instead it manifests itself through his artwork. These motifs are woven gracefully throughout the story, and this projection of plot elements onto the scenery of the book works well with the somber but poetic tone of the narrative.

I enjoyed this use of tone as well, which I found matched the content of the book perfectly. The narration of the book often describes the island scenery, noting the "steel-gray sky" and "dirty windowpanes," and while the things Malfi describes are often not particularly cheery or beautiful, the author's metaphors render these dreary everyday objects lovely. For example, Malfi writes, "Shadows of potted plans and a dusty Coke machine at the end of the hall crossed each other like latticework." These metaphors create a tone that is both serious and lyrical throughout, which works well with the content of the narrative and compliments it in interesting and unexpected ways.

Via Dolorosa is a book full of subtle metaphors as well as expressive descriptions, and offers something new to the reader with every encounter. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful and rewarding read. Overall, I enjoyed Via Dolorosa and look forward to future books by Ronald Damien Malfi.
His best work yet!  Feb 16, 2007
"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, he knew. But he also knew that whatever doesn't kill you sometimes only maims you and weakens you and makes you angrier and colder than you ever thought possible. Not for the first time, he acknowledged that, sometimes, it was probably better just to have it kill you." -- from Via Dolorosa

Nick D'Nofrio was a lieutenant in the Iraq war, where he saved the life of one of his men. Now he's a newly married man, paying for his honeymoon at a resort hotel on Hilton Head Island by painting a mural on their wall. But he can't get away from his past, especially not with the father of the man wholse life Nick saved working as the hotel's bell captain (he got him the painting gig), and his injured right hand acting up whenever he tries to do any painting.

Nick is on a downward spiral, and he won't let his wife be a support -- choosing instead to spend inordinate amounts of time in the company of a Spanish photographer who only wants details on his war experiences (and any photos he has or knows about) -- shaking up his marriage at a time when what he most needs is stability.

Author Ronald Damien Malfi returns to Raw Dog Screaming Press (the publishers of his highly acclaimed modern gothic novel The Fall of Never, their inaugural release) with Via Dolorosa, an entirely different kind of horror story: a misguided war's effects on one of its participants. Malfi's forte is in his examination of the darkness of humanity, the horrors that we inflict upon each other, most often without intending to. The Fall of Never was about the negative effects of family, while The Nature of Monsters focused on how much we'll take from the people we believe are our friends.

Now, with Via Dolorosa, Malfi turns his keen eye on marriage and how one person's emotional baggage can sour the experience for both parties. The title (it translates into "The Way of Sorrow") lets the reader know what is ahead: this is a dark, sad, and depressing novel, but it retains a modicum of hope through Nick's constant struggle for escape, in whatever form it avails itself. Whether through the guise of a Spanish photographer or in the shadows of the pointedly named Club Potemkin, or even just at the bottom of a bottle of Red Truck, Nick's continual pursuit of a way out rescues his story from utter bleakness. The often dreamlike quality of the prose suits this novel told from the perspective of a troubled protagonist who spends the majority of his time deep inside his own head.

Via Dolorosa is Malfi's best book yet. It is his most insightful and his most personal work to date. And with it, he marks a significant step forward on the road to being not only an author that people want to read, but also one whom other writers seek to emulate.

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