Before he decided to make some money by writing his brilliant, famous potboiler about mobsters, Mario Puzo produced two excellent novels. I just finished reading the one that he calls “the best thing I’ve ever written.” The Fortunate Pilgrim is the story of an Italian-American family – not a mob family, an actual nuclear family – on a block in New York in the 1920s-40s. It is a beautifully-crafted, sensitive, delicate, character-driven work of art, told from shifting points of view, but mostly that of the mother. Lucia Santa is one of the best-drawn characters I have ever encountered. You can tell reading the novel that Puzo bled for his art. It is a domestic novel mostly about mothers and children, with adult sons and husbands present but not dominating the scene – an artistic choice that mirrors well the subject matter. The Fortunate Pilgrim deserves to have a resurgence – or, to be more accurate, a surgence – so I’m spreading the word. Definitely worth picking up.