In this conclusion to Cardillo’s (Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, 2017, etc.) dramatic trilogy, a grief-ridden widow and her teenage son search for solace at her family’s island cottage.
It’s been a year since Florence resident Elizabeth Todd Innocenti lost Antonio, her husband of 14 years, to ALS. Her sorrow’s compounded by her mother-in-law, Adriana, who never accepted her and seems to resent her for still being alive. So Elizabeth takes up her grandmother Lydia Hammond on an offer to spend the summer at Innisfree, a cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Bringing along her son, Matteo, Elizabeth believes returning to her home will help them both. But she has her work cut out for her: elderly Lydia had to abandon Innisfree for a nursing home two years ago, and the cottage is now dilapidated. Elizabeth’s relationship with Matteo is also in need of repair, as his sorrow turns to anger and he sometimes lashes out at his mother. Elizabeth hopes to reignite her passion for documentary filmmaking (stunted during Antonio’s illness) and may be falling for a local, Caleb Monroe, grandson to Tobias, Innisfree’s former caretaker. But her most important decision is where she and Matteo will call home: Italy or Chappaquiddick Island. As in previous novels, Cardillo’s slowly unfolding narrative is steeped in lavish melodrama. A theme of family, for one, enriches the story: Adriana rejects Elizabeth, but the widow likewise keeps Caleb at bay, fearing his closeness could mean he’s replacing Antonio as Matteo’s father—or becoming something much more to her. The author’s fervent prose induces striking imagery brimming with emotion, like her description of isolated, battered Innisfree, which Elizabeth discerns is just as “needy” as she is. Despite the saga’s potential for utter bleakness, it’s often upbeat. Romance between Elizabeth and Caleb develops leisurely but effectively; Elizabeth reunites with beloved Izzy (Caleb’s aunt); and endlessly droll Lydia, still stuck in a nursing home, asks her granddaughter to “argue before my parole board and get me out of this joint.”
A tender, spirited family tale to complete a warm, earnest series.