Wish fulfillment of every kind awaits a group of aging American women—and the reader of this book—in a fictional Tuscan town.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world of gorgeous flowers, delicious food and wine, and dear friends who keep getting better all the time while you fulfill your deepest creative potential, escape the pain of your past, get a hot new boyfriend, and learn that your few remaining problems have resolved themselves? Mayes (Under Magnolia, 2014, etc.) has just the spot for you. It’s called San Rocco, and it's where Camille, Julia, and Susan decide to live instead of the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, retirement community where they first met. Instead of purchasing condos at this dull place, they rent an Italian villa for a year. Their new place is right next door to the home of more established expats, a successful author and her architect husband. At first the writer turns up her nose at the visitors, but as it turns out, they will all have the best year of their lives, and she will write a book about it. To be honest, a reader could almost skip 50 pages in the middle of Mayes' novel without even realizing it, because there is only the merest whisper of a plot. It takes too long to be able to tell the women apart, and the way the narrative switches between numerous points of view, both first- and third-person, doesn’t help. But in the end, none of this matters at all. Open to any page and begin: “He also brought some Sardinian pecorino called Fiore di Monte that Julia raves about and keeps slicing and piling onto a board with slivers of focaccia, olives she baked with hot peppers, and lemon peel. They’re in no rush for dinner.” Who would be?
The pleasurable descriptions of colors and tastes and various Italian tourist destinations, plus the poetry written by the writer character, the gardens planted by the gardening character, and the handmade paper made by the paper-making character, etc., are enough to keep this party going all year long.