Newman Springs

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By D.M. Zultowski

IR Rating:
DEER IN THE FIELDS OF VENICE, D.M. Zultowski's story of father Maurice Lamoreaux’s unexpected trip to Italy and the effect it has on him, is heartfelt and offers an intriguing examination of the human condition—as well as the role of spirituality in our lives.
A priest sees a larger world and struggles with his life decisions as he tries to help a young student through their own trials in this thoughtful, poetic novel set largely in Italy.

In Philadelphia, the school year at the Magi Academy has ended, but Father Maurice Lamoreaux is troubled about one of his students, Cam. Maurice tries to be a comfort and a guide to the young man before he heads off to a vacation in Italy with his parents. But when Cam’s mother, Midge, admits to an affair and leaves them, his father Jim invites Father Maurice to take her spot on the booked tour.

Maurice is initially reluctant, but he’s convinced by the Monsignor that a vacation would be good for him. The tour will visit three famous cities—Rome, Florence, and Venice—and includes a large group of tourists. At first Maurice focuses on Jim and Cam; while awed to be in Rome, he holds himself apart from the others. He begins talking with a young woman named Isabelle in the group, a photographer with a troubled past. As Cam is “adopted” by some of the others in the tour, Maurice becomes increasingly focused on Isabelle, who stirs something in him long buried, and forces him to ask himself questions long deferred.

DEER IN THE FIELDS OF VENICE is a lyrical, emotional book that takes the individual struggles of regular human beings very seriously. None of the characters have all the answers, and they emerge as well-defined individuals written with some skill. However, author D.M. Zultowski indulges in a tendency towards flowery language a bit too much. Each city—Philadelphia, Rome, Florence, and Venice—is described in overly lush, even erotic language. For example: “Florence opened herself. She sought to share her beauty with her new visitors. Invited them to come, to see her. Come closer. Come deeper […] she spread herself for them to wander inside her.”

At other points in the story, the cities even appear as a Greek chorus of sorts—commenting on and discussing the characters. Zultowski obviously wants a lyrical, romantic tone, but these sections go on for too long and wind up being a bit tedious and slightly off-putting. There are also a few clunky lines that jar the ear, like “She had to wait for the visitors to stop their clapping. A final whoop that sounded to come from Stuart before she knew she could start speaking again.”

The story repeatedly moves through a pattern: The tourists arrive at a city, explore a bit, then spend time eating and drinking in bars and restaurants. Despite the lush language about the beauty and deliciousness being experienced, there is a strange lack of detail—everyone drinks red wine or white wine without any specifics. Dinners appear to have the power to change lives, but none of the meals are actually described or given any depth. In a story where the sheer beauty and warm eroticism of Italy is a key element, this lack of detail makes the story feel muted, as if you’re reading it through a screen.

In the end, this is Father Maurice’s story: the story of a man wondering if decisions he made decades before must still map the rest of his life. It would be better served with a leaner narrative style and a bit more meat in the setting, but it’s an interesting character study that leads to an unexpected ending many readers will resonate with.

DEER IN THE FIELDS OF VENICE, D.M. Zultowski’s story of father Maurice Lamoreaux’s unexpected trip to Italy and the effect it has on him, is heartfelt and offers an intriguing examination of the human condition—as well as the role of spirituality in our lives.

~Jeff Somers for IndieReader

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