Reviews: One Italian Summer & The Unsinkable Greta James

In case you haven't noticed, I'm starting to review two books at a time in an effort to streamline my blogging schedule further (if you're wondering why, my only answer is life!). But I purposely put these two novels together because both deal with young women grappling with the loss of their mothers, a topic that is very close to my heart. Rebecca Serle and Jennifer E. Smith are actually good friends, their books came out on the same day, and my first book event since the pandemic started was to see the two of them last week at The Strand as they promoted these books. I have to say, listening to them talk so earnestly and beautifully about their stories had me thinking about these two books all over again. 

pub 3/1/22 by Atria • Magical Realism/Fiction • Received from pub for review⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars | One Italian Summer was an interesting (read: magical) take on the grieving process. When Katy's mom dies, she suddenly feels afloat in her own life. Her mother was her best friend and not a single decision in her life has been made without her input. Which makes her question her own autonomy and agency. She decides to go to Positano for the two week mother-daughter trip they had originally planned together and when she reaches the Amalfi Coast, she immediately starts to feel refreshed. But then she sees her mother there, except she's 30 years old and has no idea who Katy is. Katy doesn't understand how or why this is possible but she's given this incredible gift of getting to know her mother as the young woman she once was and doesn't waste a minute of it. I certainly felt like I was living vicariously through her and couldn't help thinking of all the things I'd love to ask my mom about her youth. We never talked about it while she was alive and now I have so many questions. I will say I didn't exactly relate to Katy in terms of that co-dependency and there was one or two decisions of hers I definitely questioned but there were aspects of her life and relationship with her mom that hit very close to home for me. Plus this whole book was such a wish fulfillment fantasy for anyone who's lost a parent. The only reason why I didn't give it 5 stars was because there were two plot points I didn't necessarily agree with but otherwise, it was beautifully written and my favorite book from Rebecca Serle so far.

pub 3/1/22 by Ballantine Books • Contemporary Fiction • Received from pub for review⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 4.5 stars | Greta James is a successful indie musician and her mother has always been her #1 fan and cheerleader while her father has always been vocal about his opposition to her career choice. But in the aftermath of grieving the sudden loss of her mom, she has an onstage meltdown that goes viral, which is how she finds herself going on the cruise her dad was supposed to take with her mom for their 40th wedding anniversary. There is a lot to unpack over the course of that trip and as always, Jennifer E. Smith explores all the nuances of Greta's internal struggles, the years of conflict with her dad, and grief with such honesty and heart. I very much related to Greta's mom acting as the buffer between Greta and her father. This trip gave them a chance to slowly break down those walls and it made my heart ache watching it happen. And of course, there is a romance in it but it's in the background, which didn't make it any less romantic and definitely the right choice. As far as I'm concerned, Smith's first foray into adult fiction is a hit and if this book is any indication, I honestly can't wait to see what's next for her as she continues to write in this space.

1 comment

  1. These both sound so lovely! It's always hard for me to pick up a book that I know it going to deal with losing a mom, but I'm especially interested in Rebecca's now!


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