In Bar-Lev’s (In Tune With Torah, 2012) novel, four retired, expat women living in Tuscany bond over delicious Italian food and family secrets.
Despite the novel’s title, life for Carmela, Cecilia, Janet and Paula Jean isn’t all pasta and poppy fields. In fact, the plucky foursome—sometimes referred to as “The Tuscany Golden Girls”—is forced to come together to take on several deeply challenging problems that unexpectedly pop up. First, there’s Janet—who, after leaving the movies with her friends, spots the familiar face of a man on the street. This startling and nagging recognition forces her to delve into her own painful past to find out more about the death of her sister, who died giving birth, and her nephew who was given up for adoption. Then there’s Ferko, Paula Jean’s mysterious, long-lost teenage lover, who unexpectedly shows up at her door after 50 years, overwhelmingly determined to have her hand in marriage now that they’re in their 60s. Bar-Lev’s novel is filled with surprising twists and turns, and by book’s end, many characters are connected in ways that even they never imagined. There’s nothing groundbreaking in this story, nor anything particularly ingenious about the mysteries that unfold, yet the suspenseful storylines and host of complex, believable relationships will keep readers eager to figure out what’s next. Also, Bar-Lev expertly paints a vivid picture of life in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, and the frequent descriptions of meals are mouth-wateringly colorful.
A delightful little book about life abroad, unsolved mysteries and the benefits of friendship.