Beyond seeing his pictures I knew very little about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. After reading To the Heights: A Novel Based on the Life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati by Brian Kennelly I can no longer say that. In this historical fiction novel Brian brings Blessed Pier to life. When finished with this book you will feel as if you had just spent time with a brother.
Brian vividly tells the life story of Blessed Pier from childhood to his final days. You will experience his many trips to the slums of his hometown of Turin and later in Germany. As you read the book you get a real sense of why Pier was so loved. He loved his God and he loved his neighbor. Coming from a well off family (his father owned the Italian newspaper La Stampa) Pier chose to share his good fortune with the poor and sick. There were many trips where after distributing food or money he would return home barefooted. His concern for the poor leading him to give away his shoes and socks.
What pained Pier the most was his family’s indifference to his Catholic faith. One heart wrenching illustration of this was when Pier went to Mass expecting his parents and sister to attend as they had promised. Mass came and went and no family members arrived. They chose instead to attend the annual Shrove Carnival. Being seen in social circles was of more importance to the Frassati’s than worshipping their God. This was a struggle Pier lived with until he died.
Piers concern for the poor and the sick ultimately was a contributing factor in his early death. He contracted polio and hid his ailment until It was too late to treat. In what was typical of his nature, Pier was more concerned with the fact that his grandmother had just died. He did not want to burden his grieving family with his symptoms and another concern.
Upon his death his parents suddenly realized how loved Pier was. The day of his funeral the streets were lined in honor of this young man who touched so many lives. His patents were at a loss as to why. There were multiple scenes in the book where his parents scoffed at the lengthy time Pier spent in prayer, attending Mass or the long hours he spent helping others. Pier tried desperately to show his family how important faith in Christ was. His death would be his final mountain to climb in the conversion of his immediate family. Though Brian took some literary license to portray this in the books final chapter, it is a fact that both his parents were led back to the Church and the Sacraments as a result of his death.
This is a wonderfully written novel about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. As you immerse yourself in the pages of this captivating novel you get a real sense of who this young man was and what he stood for. Throughout his life Pier touched many people’s lives and his story still does to this day. Brian has done a great service to Pier himself and the readers of this book. He has given us a book that opens the window on the life of Blessed Pier affording us all an opportunity to get to know and appreciate this young man from Turin.
I received a copy of the book for this review from the publisher, Saint Benedict Press.