The Prodigal’s Brother

This week’s other featured books, “Cummiskey Alley,” by Tom Sexton and “A Woman Always Knows,” by Libby Belle, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: The Prodigal’s Brother.

PUBLISHED IN: October 2021

THE AUTHOR: Paul Castellani.

THE EDITOR: Tina Lincer.

THE PUBLISHER: Donwood Books.

SUMMARY: It’s February 2008, and the Morella family’s construction company is riding the wave of irrational exuberance. But Peter Morella wants out of the family business he’s been trapped in since his older brother left and has now returned to take a leading role. Before he can leave with his fair share, he has to make sure the risky financing for a new project his brother arranged doesn’t sink the company.

As a rift grows between the brothers, a woman from Peter’s past arrives to dredge up dark and disturbing memories/secrets/episodes he hoped were long-buried. With his marriage teetering, Peter discovers his wife has her own secret that threatens to push them further apart and jeopardize her life. While Peter, his brother, and his wife struggle to keep their lives from unraveling, Peter’s daughter uncovers evidence of the deadly foundation on which the company was built. The cascade of secrets tumble out of the Morella closet toward a climax with devastating consequences for all of them.

Sputnik Summer – Snowflakes in a Blizzard
Paul Castellani

THE BACK STORY: In contrast to my previous novels that had start- to- finish processes, The Prodigal’s Brother had a lengthy start-and- pause life. In 2008 I was fascinated by what impact the financial collapse might have on ordinary people at the end of the cascading failures of banks, large businesses, and financial institutions – ordinary people with their fairer share of the seven deadly sins. I wrote drafts of the novel, set them aside for long periods of time, picked the story again, and finally completed it several years later.

As the opening paragraphs of the novel suggest with references to the biblical parables of the workers in the vineyard and the prodigal’s son, I was intrigued by how a character who believes much of his life is the result of injustice lurches from one bad decision to another propelling his family and himself to the brink of disaster. The Prodigal’s Brother also explores how indecision, self-pity and other less-than-deadly faults can also lead to disastrous outcomes.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I hope the reference to the character hidden in the background of the Parable of the Prodigal Son captures the essence of the novel.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Prodigal’s Brother should appeal to readers on several levels. First and foremost, it’s a story in which characters who we might encounter in the everyday world grapple with issues that have life and death consequences. It’s a novel in which the characters contend with conflicts within a family as well as the challenges in their personal and business lives.


Review of “Marching On” by Jack Rightmyer in the Albany Times-Union November 8, 2020:

I was very excited to receive in the mail the latest book by Delmar resident Paul Castellani, which picks up the story where his last book “Natalie’s Wars” left off. It’s 1950 and Natalie Costello is trying to forge a life of her own during a time when so many women were dependent on their husbands. Natalie’s husband is psychologically damaged from his time in the war and being cared for in a VA mental hospital in Canandaigua. Castellani has a gift for writing moving dialogue that keeps the story chugging along at a fast pace. He also captures perfectly the time and place–reading this book is like taking a time capsule back to the Capital Region 70 years ago. This book also hits on the then-national paranoia of the time with McCarthyism, but most importantly Castellani creates characters you care about.


I’ve been a writer all of my adult life. Before deciding to concentrate exclusively on fiction, I published a number of articles, chapters and books on public policy. The most recent, From Snake Pits to Cash Cows: Politics and Public Institutions in New York (SUNY Press), was featured in several articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post. In addition to teaching in American colleges and universities, I received two Fulbright fellowships to teach in Hungary and Holland. I’ve also been a consultant to several governments and NGOs in the United States and abroad. When I was in grad school, a professor told a class of would-be academics about to enter the world of publish or perish, “Remember, you’re telling a story.” That advice has always guided my writing, and reviewers have cited my non-fiction works for their strong narratives.

I’ve always been passionate reader of fiction. A number of years ago, I began doing creative writing: snatches, bits, false starts, even a “starter” novel which will remain in an undisclosed location. As one phase of my career was coming to a close, I came to a crossroads. I had an idea for another non-fiction book. I knew it would be a multi-year year project – and it would surely be the last one of that sort I would do. Or I could devote myself to writing a good fiction, and I could see myself doing that for as long as my wits held out.

I briefly considered a low-residency MFA. Instead, I dug into the literature on writing: everything from Burroway to Gardner to Francine Prose to Zissner and scores of books and articles in between. I subscribed to The Writer’s Chronicle, Poets and Writers, trolled on-line sources, and took writing workshops. And very (if not most) importantly, I found a committed critique group. In 2014, Sputnik Summer (North Country Books) was published and received excellent reviews. Natalie’s Wars and Marching On followed, and I’ve never regretted the choice I made to write novels.


The Bookhouse, Stuyvesant Plaza Albany, NY.

Market Block Books, Troy, NY. I Love Books, Delmar.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon PRICE: $19.95 paper. $4.99 ebook.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: My email is For more background and information check out my website

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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