One Italian Summer

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One Italian Summer

by Rebecca Serle
Published by: Atria Books
Publish Date: 2022
Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Italy
HB&W Rating: 3.5
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Triggers: Death of a loved one, infidelity

Synopsis

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Synopsis source: Goodreads

Review

She made me in her image, but she forgot the most important part. She forgot that one day she’d leave…. When you’re just a reflection, what happens when the image vanishes?

Bookstagram made me do it again, and once again, I’m afraid this one just didn’t live up to the hype for me. I think I’m 0 for 2 now recently. 🙁 I liked this book, but I didn’t really like it. I fall somewhere in between and don’t really get all the hype. Let me see if I can articulate why.

I didn’t really enjoy anything before Katy got to Italy. I get that she’s lost her mom, whom she was very close to, but the way the author describes the relationship is a little creepy to me. I kept being reminded of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, only this was between a mother and daughter. Ick. She goes on to state that her mother is her one true love and soulmate, not her husband.

I also get that a huge loss can make you question the choices you’ve made in your life, but questioning her marriage seemed odd. In her recollections, her decision to marry her husband so young appeared to be well-thought out and discussed. Then she recalls her mom’s one comment that maybe she should wait to marry, and now, years later, she thinks she should throw the whole marriage out the window.

Regardless, we all grieve differently and no way of grieving is wrong. This just seemed contrived, which always rubs me the wrong way. But whatever. So Katy decides to go ahead with her trip to Italy that she was supposed to take with her mom, telling her husband she needs time to figure things out, to figure out who she is without her mom. That I can get. So, on to Italy.

When she gets to Italy, she meets a businessman staying at the same hotel. He delivers one line that summed up a lot of my frustration with Katy as a character:

“You act like you don’t know how you got here, like you just woke up and looked around and thought, Huh – but I have news for you. Even inaction is a choice.”

From here on, things get much better. Descriptions of Positano are beautifully rendered and I can almost believe that I’ve been there. I enjoy her newfound relationship with her mother, who is somehow here in Positano with her, but the same age as Katy herself. It proves to be a very interesting dynamic going from a mother-daughter relationship to one that is more peer-peer friendship.

As her time in Positano and her relationship with Carol progress, Katy begins to heal from the loss of her mother and come back to herself. She begins to become more comfortable in her own skin, especially after being permitted this glimpse into her perfect mother’s not so perfect life in Positano. I love the way the book wraps up, with Katy fully realizing herself and getting her HEA.

History, memory is by definition fiction. Once an event is no longer present, but remembered, it is narrative. And we can choose the narratives we tell – about our own lives, our own stories, our own relationships. We can choose the chapters we give meaning.

While some are calling this a romance, I would say that it is almost more of a coming of age story – even though our main character is in her 30s. It’s about finding yourself, being comfortable in your own skin, and learning to stand on your own two feet. It’s about relationships, understanding, and forgiveness. All that plus the beautiful Italian setting, this is definitely a perfect summer read.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


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