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One Italian Summer

One Italian Summer

by Rebecca Serle

Hardcover

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Overview

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“[A] magical trip worth taking.” Associated Press

“Rebecca Serle is a maestro of love in all its forms.” —Gabrielle Zevin, New York Times bestselling author

The New York Times bestselling author of In Five Years returns with a powerful novel about the transformational love between mothers and daughters set on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.

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: to Positano, the magical town where 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.

Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and a daughter. With her signature “heartbreaking, redemptive, and authentic” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982166793
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 03/01/2022
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 153
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Serle is the New York Times bestselling author of One Italian Summer, In Five Years, The Dinner List, and the young adult novels The Edge of Falling and When You Were Mine. Serle also developed the hit TV adaptation Famous in Love, based on her YA series of the same name. She is a graduate of USC and The New School and lives in Los Angeles. Find out more at RebeccaSerle.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Chapter One
I’ve never smoked, but it’s the last day of my mother’s shiva, so here we are. I have the cigarette between my teeth, standing on the back patio, looking at what was, just two months ago, a pristine white sectional, now weatherworn. My mother kept everything clean. She kept everything.

Carol’s rules to live by:
  • Never throw away a good pair of jeans.
  • Always have fresh lemons on hand.
  • Bread keeps for a week in the fridge and two months in the freezer.
  • OxiClean will take out any stain.
  • Be careful of bleach.
  • Linen is better than cotton in the summer.
  • Plant herbs, not flowers.
  • Don’t be afraid of paint. A bold color can transform a room.
  • Always arrive on time to a restaurant and five minutes late to a house.
  • Never smoke.

I should say, I haven’t actually lit it.

Carol Almea Silver was a pillar of the community, beloved by everyone she encountered. In the past week, we have opened our doors to sales associates and manicurists, the women from her temple, waiters from Craig’s, nurses from Cedars-Sinai. Two bank tellers from the City National branch on Roxbury. “She used to bring us baked goods,” they said. “She was always ready with a phone number.” There are couples from the Brentwood Country Club. Irene Newton, who had a standing lunch with my mother at Il Pastaio every Thursday. Even the bartender from the Hotel Bel-Air, where Carol used to go for an ice-cold martini. Everyone has a story.

My mother was the first person you called for a recipe (a cup of onions, garlic, don’t forget the pinch of sugar) and the last one you called at night when you just couldn’t sleep (a cup of hot water with lemon, lavender oil, magnesium pills). She knew the exact ratio of olive oil to garlic in any recipe, and she could whip up dinner from three pantry items, easy. She had all the answers. I, on the other hand, have none of them, and now I no longer have her.

“Hi,” I hear Eric say from inside. “Where is everyone?”

Eric is my husband, and he is our last guest here today. He shouldn’t be. He should have been with us the entire time, in the hard, low chairs, stuck between noodle casseroles and the ringing phone and the endless lipstick kisses of neighbors and women who call themselves aunties, but instead he is here in the entryway to what is now my father’s house, waiting to be received.

I close my eyes. Maybe if I cannot see him, he will stop looking for me. Maybe I will fold into this ostentatious May day, the sun shining like a woman talking loudly on a cell phone at lunch. Who invited you here?

I tuck the cigarette into the pocket of my jeans.

I cannot yet conceive of a world without her, what that will look like, who I am in her absence. I am incapable of understanding that she will not pick me up for lunch on Tuesdays, parking without a permit on the curb by my house and running inside with a bag full of something—groceries, skin-care products, a new sweater she bought at Off 5th. I cannot comprehend that if I call her phone, it will just ring and ring—that there is no longer anyone on the other end who will say, “Katy, honey. Just a second. My hands are wet.” I do not imagine ever coming to terms with the loss of her body—her warm, welcoming body. The place I always felt at home. My mother, you see, is the great love of my life. She is the great love of my life, and I have lost her.

“Eric, come on in. You were standing out there?”

I hear my father’s voice from inside, welcoming Eric in. Eric, my husband who lives in our house, twelve and a half minutes away, in Culver City. Who has taken a leave of absence from Disney, where he is a film executive, to be with me during this trying time. Whom I’ve dated since I was twenty-two, eight years ago. Who takes out the garbage and knows how to boil pasta and never leaves the toilet seat up. Whose favorite show is Modern Family and who cried during every episode of Parenthood. Whom just last night, I told in our kitchen—the kitchen my mother helped me design—that I did not know if I could be married to him anymore.

If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?

“Hey,” Eric says when he sees me. He steps outside, squints. He half waves. I turn around. On the glass patio table, there is a spread of slowly curling cheese. I am wearing dark jeans and a wool sweater, even though it is warm outside, because inside the house it is freezing. My mother liked to keep a house cold. My father only knows the way it’s been.

“Hi,” I say.

He holds the door open for me, and I step past him inside.

Despite the temperature, the house is still as welcoming as ever. My mother was an interior designer, well respected for her homey aesthetic. Our house was her showpiece. Oversize furniture, floral prints, and rich-patterned textures. Ralph Lauren meets Laura Ashley meets a very nice pair of Tod’s loafers and a crisp white button-down. She loved textiles—wood, linen, the feel of good stitching.

There was always food in the fridge, wine in the side door, and fresh-cut flowers on the table.

Eric and I have been trying to plant an herb garden for the past three years.

I smile at Eric. I try to arrange my mouth in a way I should remember but that feels entirely impossible now. I do not know who I am anymore. I have no idea how to do any of this without her.

“Katy, you’re grieving,” he said to me last night. “You’re in crisis; you can’t decide this now. People don’t get divorces in the middle of a war. Let’s give it some time.”

What he did not know is that I had. I had given it months. Ever since my mother got sick, I’d been thinking about the reality of being married to Eric. My decision to leave Eric had less to do with my mother’s death and more to do with the remembrance of death in general. Which is to say I began to ask myself if this was the marriage I wanted to die in, if this was the marriage I wanted to see me through this, my mother’s illness, and what would, impossibly, remain after.

We didn’t have kids yet—we were still kids ourselves, weren’t we?

Eric and I met when we were both twenty-two, seniors at UC Santa Barbara. He was an East Coast liberal, intent on going into politics or journalism. I was a Los Angeles native, deeply attached to my parents and the palm trees, and felt that two hours away was the farthest I could possibly go from home.

We had a class together—Cinema 101, a prereq we were both late in taking. He sat next to me on the first day of the spring semester—this tall, goofy kid. He smiled, we started talking, and by the end of class he’d stuck a pen through one of my ringlets. My hair was long and curly then; I hadn’t yet started straightening it into submission.

He pulled his pen back, and the curl went with it.

“Bouncy,” he said. He was blushing. He hadn’t done it because he was confident; he had done it because he didn’t know what else to do. And the uncomfortableness of this, the ridiculousness of his, a total stranger’s, pen through my hair, made me laugh.

He asked me to get a coffee. We walked to the commons and sat together for two hours. He told me about his family back home in Boston, his younger sister, his mother, who was a college professor at Tufts. I liked the way he saw them, the women in his family. I liked the way he spoke about them—like they mattered.

He didn’t kiss me until a week later, but once we started dating, that was it. No breaks, no torrid fights, no long-distance. None of the usual hallmarks of young love. After graduation, he got a job at the Chronicle in New York, and I moved with him. We set up shop in a tiny one-bedroom in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I worked as a freelance copywriter for anyone who would have me, mostly fashion blogs whose hosts were grateful for help with language. This was 2015, the city had rebounded from financial ruin, and Instagram had just become ubiquitous.

We spent two years in New York before moving back to Los Angeles. We got an apartment in Brentwood, down the street from my parents’ house. We got married, we bought a starter home, farther away in Culver City. We built a life that perhaps we were too young to live.

“I was already thirty when I met your father,” my mother told me when we first moved back. “You have so much time. Sometimes I wish you’d take it.” But I loved Eric—we all did. And I had always felt more comfortable in the presence of adults than young people, had felt since the time I was ten years old that I was one. And I wanted all of the trappings that would signal to others that I was one, too. It felt right to start young. And I couldn’t help the timeline. I couldn’t help it right up until last night, when I suddenly could.

“I brought over the mail,” Eric says. My mother is dead. What could any piece of paper possibly say that would be worth reading?

“You hungry?”

It takes me a moment to realize that my father has asked this of Eric, and another second to understand that the answer is yes, actually, Eric is nodding his head yes, and a third, still, to realize neither knows how to prepare a meal. My mother cooked for my father, for all of us—she was great at it. She’d make elaborate breakfasts: goat cheese frittatas with scooped-out bagels. Fruit salad and cappuccinos. When my father retired five years ago, they’d begun to eat outside, setting up on the veranda for hours. My mother loved the New York Times on a Sunday, and an iced coffee in the afternoon. My father loved what she did.

Chuck, my dad, worshipped Carol. He thought she hung the moon and painted the stars in the sky. But the deep secret, although it couldn’t have been one to him, is that I was her great love. She loved my father, certainly. I believe there wasn’t a man on earth she would have traded him for, but there was no relationship above ours. I was her one, just like she was mine.

I believe my love with my mother was truer, purer, than what she had with my father. If you’d have asked her Who do you belong to, the answer would have been Katy.

“You’re my everything,” she’d tell me. “You’re my whole world.”

“There are some leftovers in the fridge,” I hear myself saying.

I think about dishing lettuce onto plates, heating the chicken, crisping the rice the way I know my dad likes.

My father is gone, already in pursuit of the La Scala chopped salads that are no doubt soggy in their containers. I can’t remember who brought them over, or when, just that they’re there.

Eric is still standing in the doorway.

“I thought maybe we could talk,” he says to me.

I left last night and drove here. I let myself in like I had thousands of times, with my own key. I tiptoed up the stairs. It was nearly midnight, and I poked my head into my parents’ bedroom, expecting to see my father fast asleep, but he wasn’t in there. I looked in the guest room and didn’t find him there, either. I went down the stairs into the family room. There he was, asleep on the couch, their wedding photo in a frame on the floor.

I covered him. He didn’t stir. And then I went upstairs and slept in my parents’ bed, on the side that was hers.

In the morning I came downstairs to find my dad making coffee. I didn’t mention the couch, and he didn’t ask me why I was up there, or where I had slept, either. We’re forgiving each other these oddities, what we’re doing to survive.

“Katy,” Eric says when I don’t respond. “You have to talk to me.”

But I don’t trust myself to speak. Everything feels so tenuous that I’m afraid if I even say her name, all that would come out would be a scream.

“Do you want to eat?” I ask.

“Are you coming home?” There is an edge to his voice, and I realize, not for the first time in the past few months, how unused to discomfort we both are. We do not know how to live a life that the bottom has fallen out of. These were not the promises of our families, our upbringings, our marriage. We made promises in a world lit with light. We do not know how to keep them in the darkness.

“If you just communicate with me, I can help,” Eric says. “But you have to talk to me.”

“I have to,” I repeat.

“Yes,” Eric says.

“Why?” I realize how petulant this sounds, but I am feeling childish.

“Because I’m your husband,” he says. “Hey, it’s me. That’s what I’m here for. That’s the point. I can help.”

I am overcome with a sudden, familiar anger and the boldface, pulsating words: Unfortunately, you can’t.

For thirty years I have been tied to the best person alive, the best mother, the best friend, the best wife—the best one. The best one was mine, and now she’s gone. The string that tethered us has been snipped, and I am overcome with how little I have left, how second-best every single other thing is.

I nod, because I cannot think what else to do. Eric hands me a stack of envelopes.

“You should look at the one on top,” he says.

I glance down. It’s marked United Airlines. I feel my fingers curl.

“Thanks.”

“Do you want me to leave?” Eric asks. “I can go pick up sandwiches or something…”

I look at him standing in his oxford shirt and khaki shorts. He shifts his body weight from one foot to the other. His brown hair hangs too long in the back; his sideburns, too. He needs a haircut. He has on his glasses. Dorky handsome, my mother said when she met him.

“No,” I say. “It’s fine.”

He calls my parents by their first names. He takes his shoes off at the door and puts his feet, in socks, up on the coffee table. He helps himself to the refrigerator and puts more soap in the dispenser when it’s empty. This is his home, too.

“I’m going to go lie down,” I say.

I turn to leave, and Eric reaches out and takes my free hand. I feel his fingertips, cold, press into my palm. They seem to be Morse coding the one word Please.

“Later,” I say. “Okay?”

He lets me go.

I walk up the stairs. I travel down the wood-paneled hallway, past the room that used to be mine, the one that my mother and I redecorated during my second year of college, and then again when I was twenty-seven. It has striped wallpaper and white bedding and a closet full of sweatshirts and sundresses. All of my skin-care products sit, expired, in the medicine cabinet.

“You’re fully stocked here,” my mother would say. She loved that I could sleep over if it got late, and I didn’t even have to pack a toothbrush.

I stop at the entrance to her room.

How long does it take for someone’s smell to fade? When she was here, at the end. When the hospice nurses came and went like apparitions, the room smelled like illness, like a hospital, like plastic and vegetable broth and soured dairy. But now, all trace of sickness gone, her scent has come back, like a spring bloom. It lingers in the blankets, the carpet, the curtains. When I open the doors to her closet, it’s almost as if she were crouched inside.

I flick the light switch on and sit down among her dresses and blazers, jeans ironed, folded, and hung. I breathe her in. And then I turn my attention back to the envelopes in my hand. I let them slip down to the floor until I’m just holding the one on top. I slide my pinkie in the seam and wiggle it open. It gives easily.

Inside, as I expect, are two plane tickets. Carol Almea Silver was not a woman who handed her phone to the gate agent to scan. She was a woman who demanded a proper ticket for a proper trip.

Positano. June 5. Six days from now. The mother-daughter trip we had talked about for years, made manifest.

Italy had always been special to my mother. She went to the Amalfi Coast the summer before she met my father. She loved to describe Positano, a tiny seaside town, as “pure heaven.” God’s country. She loved the clothes and the food and the light. “And the gelato is a meal itself,” she said.

Eric and I considered going for our honeymoon—taking the train down from Rome and hitting Capri—but we were young and saving for a house, and the whole thing felt too extravagant. We ended up finding a cheap flight to Hawaii and spending three nights at the Grand Wailea Maui.

I look at the tickets.

My mother had always talked about going back to Positano. First with my father, but then as time went on she began to suggest the two of us go together. She was adamant about it—she wanted to show me this place that had always lingered in her memory. This special mecca that she played in right before she became a woman and a wife and then a mother.

“It’s the most spectacular place in the world,” she’d tell me. “When I was there, we’d sleep until noon and then take the boat out onto the water. There was this great little restaurant, Chez Black, in the marina. We’d eat pasta and clams in the sand. I remember like it was yesterday.”

So we decided to go. First as a fantasy, then as a loose, down-the-road plan, and then, when she got sick, as a light at the end of the tunnel. “When I’m better” became “when we go to Positano.”

We booked the tickets. She ordered summer sweaters in creams and whites. Sun hats with big, wide brims. We planned and pretended right up until the end. Up until the week before she died we were still talking about the Italian sun. And now the trip is here, and she is not.

I edge my back so it’s flat against the side of her closet. A coat rubs up against my shoulder. I think about my husband and father downstairs. My mother was always better with them. She encouraged Eric to take the job at Disney, to ask for a raise, to buy the car he really wanted, to invest in the good suit. “The money will come,” she’d always say. “You’ll never regret the experience.”

My mother supported my father through the opening of his first clothing store. She believed that he could create his own label, and believed they could manufacture the product themselves. She was quality control. She could tell how good a spool of thread was just by looking at it, and she made sure every garment my dad had was up to her standards. She also worked as his desk girl, answering the phones and taking the orders. She hired and trained everyone who ever worked in their business, teaching them about an invisible stich, the difference between pleating and ruching. She planned the birthday parties and the baptisms of their employees and their children. She always baked on Fridays.

Carol knew how to show up.

And now here I am, hiding in her closet in her absence. How did I not inherit any of her capability? The only person who would know how to handle her death is gone.

I feel the paper crinkle between my fingers. I am gripping it.

I couldn’t. There’s no way. I have a job. And a grieving father. And a husband.

From downstairs I hear a clattering of pans. The loud sounds of unfamiliarity with appliances, cabinets, the choreography of the kitchen.

We are missing our center.

What I know: She is not in this house, where she died. She is not downstairs, in the kitchen she loved. She is not in the family room, folding the blankets and rehanging the wedding photos. She is not in the garden, gloves on, clipping the tomato vines. She is not in this closet that still smells like her.

She is not here, and therefore, I cannot be here, either.

Flight 363.

I want to see what she saw, what she loved before she loved me. I want to see where it was she always wanted to return, this magical place that showed up so strongly in her memories.

I curl my knees to my chest. I sink my head down into them. I feel the outline of something in my back pocket. I pull it out, and the cigarette, now warm and mangled, disintegrates in my hands.

Please, please, I say aloud, waiting for her, for this closet full of her clothes, to tell me what to do next.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for One Italian Summer includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rebecca Serle. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom but her best friend and first phone call. Even Katy’s husband can’t seem to get through to her—she is lost without her anchor. Her mother was her true north.

To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: going to Positano, following the very same route Carol did as a young woman. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now suddenly she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone. But as soon as she steps foot on the beautiful Amalfi Coast, buoyed by the stunning cliffsides, delectable food, and charming hotel staff, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit.

And then Carol appears for real—in the flesh, healthy and sun-tanned . . . and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how. But over the course of her time in Italy, Katy gets to know Carol in this new form, and soon she must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

One Italian Summer is Rebecca Serle’s next great love story, a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The novel begins with “Carol’s rules to live by” (page 1). How does this set up the story and both Carol’s and Katy’s characters?

2. Katy describes her mother as “the great love of [her] life” (page 3). How does their relationship change over the course of the novel?

3. When Katy married young, Carol told her, “You have so much time. Sometimes I wish you’d take it” (page 6). How does this sentiment recur throughout the story?

4. Katy finds herself in something of a time slip, as if she has “stumbled into some kind of magic reality where we get to be together. That time here does not only move slower but in fact doubles back on itself” (page 81). How does time operate in this novel? Why do you think the author made the choices she did to allow Katy and her mother to take their trip to Positano in the end?

5. Observing Carol, Katy understands that she is “watching her becoming” (page 89). How does the Carol in Positano differ from the one Katy presented as her mother at the beginning of the book? Do you see glimpses of a younger Carol in the one the reader only hears about?

6. Positano itself acts as a character in the novel, “full of very real magic” (page 101). What makes Positano distinctive? What is its draw for each of the characters, both locals and tourists?

7. A large subplot focuses on the struggles of Hotel Positano and Italy itself, a place out of “some era that is unmarked by modernity” (page 142). What did you think of Adam’s plan to purchase the hotel? How do the local characters interact with Adam, Carol, and Katy?

8. Adam admits that he’s “really good at travel and less good at what happens when you stand still” (page 152). How do each of the characters grapple with their own restlessness?

9. Reflect on how mythmaking—in reference to Capri’s rocks of Faraglioni and the Amalfi Coast’s Path of the Gods—plays a role in this novel, especially in Katy’s relationship with her mother.

10. In Katy’s final interaction with Carol as a young woman, Carol asks, “Did I leave you?” and Katy responds, “No, you never did” (page 226). What was your reaction to that scene?

11. Much of this novel is about belonging—where and if we belong to whom. Katy notes at the end of the novel that “I do not belong to anyone” (page 239). Does that ring true to you?

12. What did you think about the two major twists toward the end of the novel—one about Katy’s mother and one about time? Did either of those surprise you?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Celebrate One Italian Summer with an Italian-inspired feast. Bring pasta and pesto, calamari, and don’t forget the Aperol spritz!

2. Bring in a photo of a mother figure in your life. Share any stories you have of her as a young woman with your group.

3. Visit rebeccaserle.com to learn more about the author and the inspiration behind this book.

A Conversation with Rebecca Serle

This novel is dedicated to your own mother. What made you want to tackle a mother-daughter story?

My mother is truly the great love of my life, and my greatest fear is her dying. This book is part love letter to her and part love letter to my future self—the one who will have to live in this world without her. To me mother-daughter stories are extremely intimate, rich, heartbreaking, and challenging. Our mothers are our first blueprint of love, but they are also people. So many of my readers have lost their mothers or have challenging or nonexistent relationships with them. I want to pay tribute to how we honor this very deep connection, and then also how we break away. Because we must.

Some early copies of In Five Years and One Italian Summer arrived with a pack of tissues. How do you create these emotional, wrenching moments that speak to a wide swath of readers?

I try to write the truth, as I feel it. If my books touch people and I can say to them: “Yes, that thing you feel? I’m going to name it. I feel it, too”—that’s a beautiful connection. Tears are not bad, you know? They don’t always convey sadness. They are just an expression of emotion.

All of your novels start with a compelling question: which five people, dead or alive, would you invite to dinner; where do you see yourself in five years; what if you knew your mother as a young woman. Where does your inspiration come from?

If you’re asking where the conceits of my books come from, they come from a theme I want to explore—usually that’s the dialogue between fate and free will. How much is in our control, really, in life? I’m not sure if I come to the same answer every time or if the answers vary. Sabrina (The Dinner List), Dannie (In Five Years), and Katy (One Italian Summer) are all very different people with very different lessons to learn. But they are all, probably, facets of me. I see writing as a kind of communion—with the universe, my intuition, whatever you’d like to call it. It’s a magical process by which I get to tap into something beyond me, and come back with the words to show other people what’s there.

A lot of this novel is about grief, and how Katy is able to move forward after her mother’s death. Grief is a theme that shows up in a number of your novels. What draws you to that subject matter?

Andrew Garfield recently said about the death of his mother, “Grief is unexpressed love,” and I think that’s it. I write love stories. There is grief in love stories, because of course there is. I’m also interested in probing the seam of the human experience—the very edge. I write about things I’m afraid of, maybe.

Why did you decide to set this book in Positano? Given that the setting is so vivid, what kind of research did you do?

In the summer of 2019 I took a trip to Italy with my mother. She and I spent a week in Rome, and we got to meet her ex love from when she was twenty years old! She always talked about how special Positano was to her and how much she loved it. When I went back, I understood why. I had no plans to write a novel set in Italy, but on my last day in Positano I took photographs of every street sign. That’s how I knew eventually I would want to tell this story.

This novel is coming out at a very different time than your last (the week the pandemic began to shut down the US), and this book features a time slip. Did the events of the past couple of years have anything to do with that choice?

Honestly, no. I didn’t even know that I was writing this book in a different time until Katy realizes it. We literally uncovered that at the exact same time! It worked out, I guess, but it was not intentional.

I started One Italian Summer in April of 2020. I wanted to travel somewhere and live in a world filled with salt air and hugs and lots of fresh tomatoes. It is my sincerest hope that this book will bring that same sense of escape to my readers.

You’ve spoken before about the question of fate or free will in your novels. At the end of the book, Katy realizes that her mother has to make her own choices. How has this theme continued to resonate in your work?

It is the central question of the human experience I am most interested in. I am probably tormented by trying to determine what I can control in life. I have this sense I can stop bad things from happening if I just do it “right.” I think a lot of people can relate to that. But it’s not, of course, a fair way to go through life. Life is going to happen. I think what I keep coming back to is that how we react to what happens is what really matters.

What was your favorite scene to write and why?

I loved writing this entire book. I really mean that. I enjoy writing in general, and this book was particularly special, given the time in which it was written. But the final scene of Katy and Carol is probably my favorite.

The process from first draft to publication is a long one. Were there any major changes or revisions you didn’t foresee?

I am twelve years into this career and I am lucky to now have a team that trusts my process. They push me when I need to be pushed but they always read my books on their own terms. For now, in where I’m at in my professional journey, my first draft really has to sing for the book to work. I’ve never had a book published where the first draft really didn’t work. Because of this, my editorial process is about broadening the scope, adding details, rounding it out. The plot does not often change in a meaningful way.

What are you working on next?

A love story. Would you expect anything else?

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