Photo by Mikaela Besel
SLM Book Club: 'The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany'
February 2021 | by lindsay blackburn
Do you ever buy a book based upon the cover?
I do! This cover, in particular, contains a few of my favorite things: poppy fields, Vespa scooters, and the Tuscan countryside, all of which stir up happy travel memories. I like sister stories, too. I knew from first glance that I wanted to read this book someday.
Cover aside, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany is an enjoyable, light, and easy read.
The story’s main character is Emilia, a happily single, 29-year-old woman from Bensonhurst, the Little Italy area of Brooklyn. Her extended, tight-knit family lives in the neighborhood, too; everyone is highly involved in each other’s day-to-day lives and personal business. Gossip, family secrets, and expectations abound.
The Fontanas are also superstitious. They believe every second-born daughter in the family is cursed from finding lasting love. After all, not a single one has gotten married for several generations.
Is it truly a curse? Just a coincidence? A self-fulfilling prophecy?
Emilia is skeptical. Her life has turned out okay. She works as a baker in her grandfather’s delicatessen, whipping up delicious Italian treats. She has a sweet bond with her nieces, a pet cat to keep her company, and a wonderful, platonic relationship with her best friend, Matt.
It may not be an exciting life, but she’s not cursed, right?
One day, Emilia receives a letter in the mail from her grandmother’s estranged younger sister. She doesn’t know much about her Great-Aunt Poppy, but Emilia’s grandparents consider her to be “un problema” (trouble). All further communication with Poppy, let alone a relationship with the free-spirited lady, is strictly forbidden. What could she possibly want from Emilia, anyway?
Poppy has a proposition. She wants Emilia and Lucy, another second-born daughter in the Fontana family, to travel with her to Italy, all-expenses-paid. Poppy intends to celebrate her 80th birthday on the Ravello Cathedral steps, reconnecting with her long-lost love and effectively breaking the family’s curse.
Despite her grandmother’s desperate pleas against the trip, Emilia accepts the invitation and the three women hop a flight to Italy.
With vivid details that transport you to each setting, the book covers their time spent in Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast. The author uses a dual-narrative technique, flipping back-and-forth between the present-day trip and Poppy’s younger years. We learn more about her upbringing, the man she loved once upon a time, and her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.
Over the course of the trip, Emilia finally hears Poppy’s side of the family saga. She also meets people from the aging woman’s past and connects with her heritage. Most importantly, Emilia takes tentative steps toward personal growth and begins to blossom in Italy, thanks in part to Poppy’s guidance. The book’s ending ties the story together in the most delightful way.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany is the perfect pick for February. It celebrates love in its various forms - familial, friendship, and romantic - as well as love for yourself and your own story. There is something for every reader within its pages.
“I’m not saying you must be on a constant quest for it, but please, if love comes to you, if you find it within your grasp, promise me you’ll pluck it from the vine and give it a good looking-over, won’t you?”
Pick up a copy of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman at This House of Books, and let’s discuss the book on the Simply Local Facebook page.
SLM Book Club: 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' | November 2020
You'll want to belly up to 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' if you like character-driven novels, family dramas, female protagonists, or have an interest in small-town, Midwestern life. (And you don’t have to be a beer-drinker to appreciate it.)