Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Book Review: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Pages: 272
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: March 1, 2022
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: In Five Years
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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: two weeks in Positano, the magical town 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."


Katy and her mom, Carol, have been planning a trip to Positano, Italy.  Positano holds a special place in Carol's heart as she spent a summer there in her younger years and she can't wait to take Katy there.  Everything is going as planned until Carol is diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately dies before they could take the trip.  Katy, who is very close to her mother, is absolutely devastated.  She's questioning everything at this point, including her marriage to her college sweetheart.  She realizes that she's unhappy with him and wants a break from their marriage. Meanwhile, she plans to take the trip to Positano alone even though it scares her to travel by herself.  Once there, Katy realizes why her mother was always so enamored with the Amalfi Coast. It's gorgeous! While at Hotel Poseidon, she tries to relax and also do some of the things that she planned with her mother. Katy is obviously still grieving, but she meets Adam, a businessman also staying at the hotel.  They hit it off immediately. Katy spends this time exploring the coast, eating the delicious Italian food, hanging out with Adam, soaking up some sun, drinking more than a few glasses of wine, and surprisingly, she sees her mother.  Except this isn't her mother on her death bed, it's Carol, in her thirties, living on the Amalfi Coast, just like she did that one glorious summer.  How can this be? How could Katy's mother be right before her eyes? Without thinking too deeply about it, Katy tries to spend as much time with her "new friend" and along the way, she learns some secrets about her mother.  Katy comes to realize Carol had a whole entire life before she became a mother and she sees her in a whole other light.  Rebecca Serle's One Italian Summer is a book that examines the grieving process, but the story's end it is undoubtably hopeful.

I'm going to be honest here, but Katy wasn't my favorite in One Italian Summer. I was hoping for a nice mother-daughter relationship, but what I found was a co-dependent one that bordered on unhealthy. Katy was way too reliant on her mother for just about everything to the point where her death uproots her life entirely. I wondered if Katy was going to be able to live without her mother telling her what to do, how to dress, etc. Once I got past their extremely codependent relationship that would have benefited from some healthy boundaries, I tried to enjoy the ride.  Serle makes a regular contemporary novel more magical by incorporating a time-warp element to the story.  Once Katy meets her younger mother, I really got suck into the story. What can I say? I love a good Back to the Future vibe.

The real star of the show is the Amalfi Coast setting in One Italian Summer.  Serle really brought it to life and I felt like I was there.  The descriptions of the landmarks, the azure water, the delectable food, the wine, and the people were spot on.  It had me wanting to drop everything to plan a trip to visit the Amalfi Coast and Capri once again.  Because of this absolutely immersive setting, One Italian Summer would be a great spring break read.

It should be noted though that One Italian Summer got a little depressing at times.  There's the issue of infidelity, terminal cancer, and family secrets that felt downright heavy at times.  Serle has written about terminal cancer before and it is starting to get to be a bit too much at times.  Despite this, I felt Serle captured the grieving process very well.

While I had issues with a few things in One Italian Summer, I felt the play on time travel was a nice touch as well as the memorable setting. These factors, along with the fact that it is an extremely quick read, made for a decent novel overall and one that you could throw in your bag over spring break.

So, are you a fan of Rebecca Serle's novels? Is One Italian Summer on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. The setting and the time travel elements both sound so great, I will probably be able to overlook some of the other issues!

    1. I think they other issues can definitely be overlooked. I looked forward to your thoughts on it! Thanks for dropping by, Angela.


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