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My Mother's Smile Summary

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Ernesto is a successful painter/illustrator, recently separated from his wife, but entirely devoted to his impressionably young son, Leonardo. When Ernesto receives news from the mysterious Don Pugni, secretary to the equally enigmatic Cardinal Piumini, that the Vatican wants to anoint sainthood to his mother, he is stunned to discover that the beatification process has been under way for nearly three years. Ernesto learns that his family has been quietly spearheading the campaign to canonize his mother behind his back. The family had feared that Ernesto's atheist conviction and his disdain for his dead mother would destroy any hope they had of winning the beatification and, more importantly, the individual rewards that each family member expects to gain from it. Ernesto also discovers that his wife enrolled Leonardo in religion classes. The religion classes steer the boy into a growing obsession with God, inevitably forcing Ernesto to reexamine the merits of faith in contrast to his world as an artist and free atheist. The Church supports the claim that Ernesto's mother held miraculous healing powers, but if she is going to be ordained, the Church needs to prove that her violent death, at the hands of the most unlikeliest person, culminated with a vow of forgiveness for her murderer. Ernesto's relationship to the murderer provides the Church with its last chance of uncovering the truth behind his mother's death, but Ernesto is reluctant to succumb to his family's pressure and schemes. Ernesto doesn't believe his mother should be a saint, and he says no, much to the anger of the Church and his family. Overwhelmed by the fact that he didn't sense the conspiracy beneath him, the conflicts haunting him come to the fore and his memory of his mother opens up a gaping chasm that forces him to reconsider the past and live the present differently.