What really happened to Vittorio's mother that day in the stable? That she'd been bitten by a snake was clear enough: the swelling in the ankle proved it. But that other swelling, the one that led eventually to his mother's long, loose dresses, to those dark, cold stares from the other villagers. What strange thing could be taking shape there in his mother's belly, and what doom would it carry them all to? Set in Valle del Sole, a tiny mountain hamlet nestled in the folds of the Italian Appenines like a world forgotten, Lives of the Saints tells the story of young Vittorio Innocente and of his mother, Cristina, whose affair with a mysterious blue-eyed stranger abruptly shatters the innocence of Vittorio's childhood. As he tries to piece together the truth of his mother's crime, we discover through Vittorio's eyes the dark underside of Valle de Sole's pastoral calm: the hypocrisy and malice that breed within the cloak of the villagers' self-righteousness, and the age-old superstitions and fears that lurk beneath their veneer of Chrisitanity and Catholicism like vestiges of a pagan past. But sinner or saint, Cristina is irrepressible and, finally, it is her defiance that the villagers cannot bear, her refusal to be defeated by them even as her world crumbled.