Townsend’s (Reel Life, 2012) second novel presents a portrait of two clashing cultures, embodied in the relationship between a career-minded American woman and a conflicted Italian man.
The novel depicts the tried-and-true themes of the New versus Old World, and pragmatism versus romance, through its main characters: Jamie, a driven woman who has found success in a man’s world, and Jack, her Italian lover who is torn between his American business and his family’s legacy. Jamie is a child of divorce, dogmatically anti-marriage and single-minded in her professional quest. Jack’s character is more interesting: Pressured to achieve success in America, he’s a beacon of hope for his bankrupt, haunted Italian family. However, his heart is in the old Italian ways, and he can’t escape his attachment to his family’s antiquated wine business. The opening chapters are set in Italy, where Jack brings Jamie as his date to his brother’s wedding; from the beginning, readers get a visceral look at Jack’s struggle to reconcile his feelings for his family with his life in America. The flowing prose is polished, but too easily glosses over moments that could offer more emotional heft. For example, readers experience Jamie’s attraction to Jack, but never his attraction to her, thus obscuring one of the driving forces of Jack’s character: his love for Jamie. Indeed, the third-person narration stays very close to Jamie throughout, but never reveals as much about her thoughts some readers might expect. Jamie is so emotionally blocked that without objective insight into her inner conflict readers may find her one-dimensional and unsympathetic.
A pleasant read, rich in cultural ethos, but with little character depth.