About Visions of Johanna by Peter Sarno:
“A beautifully written literary novel . . . Sarno’s use of metaphors and lush language draws readers into the story . . . [who] may shed a tear or two before the final page is turned.”
—BlueInk, Starred Review
Johanna, an artist, and Matt, a music critic, couldn’t be more different, but by a simple twist of fate, she plucks him from a crowd at a Dylan concert. What follows is a heady and intense relationship buffeted by the usual suspects that gently rocked the ‘80s. Matt’s lessons in art—as well as life—at the hands of Johanna, drive the novel into pockets of feminism and quiet revolution. All of this is tempered by deeply held traumatic secrets that torque their intimacy.
Yet it’s Revere—and not Boston—that remains one of the underlying attractions in “Visions of Johanna”. This north shore backdrop brings Matt into full focus—a child in a city of recent immigrants, life by the ocean, the bilious flavor of the Mob are just some of the elements rendered in skillful detail. Johanna, a renegade from Wisconsin—freewheeling and hyper-energized—draws Matt out of his comfort zone and into her world.
A meditation on art and unrest, “Visions of Johanna” celebrates life, love, memory and the undying power of the deep connections that sustain us. The novel follows Johanna and Matt as they pursue their dreams to paint and to write. But burdening problems collide with these artistic desires and other forces conspire against them. Ultimately, the two are done in by their inability to share aspects of their past they believe they must hide from.
The novel travels through time and social unrest to the final moment hinted at in the prologue. Within this book’s pages, tragedies haunt, acts of moral goodness manifest themselves, and benevolence reigns with a finality that absolves all.
“A beautifully intimate romance that doesn’t shy away from challenging topics.”
—Publishers Weekly’s BookLife
“This would be a perfect book club book. With questions that address the concepts of faith and hope to the efforts put towards the women’s movement, there is a lot that can be talked about…Detailed, wonderfully written, and thought-provoking, ‘Visions of Johanna’ will have readers thinking long after they put the book down.”
— Kristi Elizabeth, Manhattan Book Review
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Peter Sarno taught literature and memoir courses at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and has published essays, reviews, and short stories. While a graduate student at UMass, he won the Donald E Cookson prize in nonfiction. His work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Music World magazine, Sweet Potato, Gannet newspapers, Gatehouse Media, and other outlets.