This colorful and witty memoir covers the first year in the life of Jennifer Criswell as she romps through, up and down, and all around, the small hill town of Montepulciano, Italy.
Criswell has done her research. She’s visited the area many times. She knows what’s in store for her. And, still, she tosses her life as a lawyer in NYC, to the wind. Sends her life packing in boxes that will not arrive until months after her arrival. And travels halfway around the world with her dog Cinder to begin a new life.
How easy is it to relocate to a foreign country? What kinds of red tape are you likely to encounter? And how apt are you to actually stay? What are the odds that you might have to give up? All these questions and then some are answered here in Jennifer Criswell’s memoir.
The pace of life in Italy is slower than life in the United States. We whine and complain about waiting in line an extra five minutes. Waiting is the norm for most things in Italy, but any sort of document or paperwork, is going to take seemingly forever. So, you must be willing and able to learn patience. I couldn’t help but feel Jennifer’s pain as she waited and waited for her documents. And then waited again.
I believe Criswell has painted a pretty accurate picture of her life. I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with her even as I broke out laughing, about the bread: the hard, white, tasteless bread. I was on the quest for a decent loaf of bread the entire month we were in Tuscany. And I never, ever, found it. One innkeeper in Ponzano actually took pride in serving the bread the next day when it was harder than a brick. Would have loved to have found good whole wheat bread hidden away in the back of a bakery.
The fruit and vegetables are without comparison. And the wine, the wine, is wonderful. People must visit a vineyard .
Finding a job in any foreign country has got to be difficult. In this case it was downright impossible. If not for the generosity of her neighbors and friends Criswell would probably have given up and gone home.
And what about Criswell’s love life? After all, she is only late 30’s? Let’s say, it gets complicated.
There are scenes that are laugh out loud funny. And then scenes of abstract frustration as Jennifer deals with immigration issues the language. Even though she has been studying Italian for some years, it is allusive unless used in context. And there are many scenes dealing with food; preparation, shopping for, eating. These I liked. They brought back memories of sitting outside on a chilly spring day while visiting Pienza, enjoying a steaming hot bowl of ribollita ( Tuscan bean soup) while my husband devoured his pici topped with cinghiale ragu. In other words his local pasta with tomato sauce and wild boar.
While staying in an ancient stone cottage in Ponzano we came face to face with our own experience with an Italian washing machine. It truly took three hours for the thing to go though all the cycles. And there was no dryer. So, when Jennifer tells how she tangled with the washer, well, I can relate.
You will delight in reading about Jennifer’s adventures. You’ll laugh and cry with her. And look forward to the next installment.
I was able to read an e-galley of Jennifer’s book from netgalley. Thanks.