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Cover of One Italian Summer by Rebecca SerleOne Italian Summer

by Rebecca Serle

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance, Domestic Fiction

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.

Discussion Guide

Headshot of Rebecca Serle Author Biography

Rebecca Serle is an author and television writer who lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of six novels and codeveloped the hit TV adaptation of her YA series Famous in Love. She received her MFA from the New School in NYC. She loves Nancy Meyers films, bathrobes, and giving unsolicited relationship advice. - Author's website

More titles by this author



Serle (In Five Years, 2020) returns with a novel touted as a great love story between a mother and a daughter. Katy Silver is grieving for her mother, Carol, who has recently died of cancer. Unsure and adrift without her anchor, she questions her relationship with her husband, Eric, and the normal world they live in. She and Carol were set to take a trip to Positano, Italy, so Katy decides to go there to find herself. There, she meets up with another Carol--a young woman, only thirty years old. Katy realizes immediately that she has met her own mother, and she must learn how to heal from her grief while also learning to understand her mother's past decisions. Despite vague time travel mechanics, the novel is poignant and ultimately uplifting. The mouth-watering descriptions of Katy's food and the lush Italian coast bring a strong, atmospheric sense of place. Recommend to fans of Helen Fisher's Faye, Faraway (2021) and those who enjoy being transported to other countries through fiction.

Publisher's Weekly

Serle (In Five Years) sets up another time-warp conceit with a touching story about a woman grieving her mother. Katy Silver, 30, was planning a trip with her mother, Carol, to Positano, Italy, before Carol died from cancer. Katy decides to go alone, and while she's abroad she reconsiders her unsatisfying marriage. She also somehow meets her 30-year-old mother, along with the beguiling Adam Westbrooke, a single man in the hotel acquisition business, who offers a bit more adventure than her predictable husband. As Katy explores the Amalfi coast and eats fabulous local food, she comes to understand different aspects of her mother, a woman who, as an art gallery assistant, dreamed of her own design business and came to Italy to rejuvenate her sense of self. As Katy and Carol's friendship deepens, they have a pivotal dispute that threatens their relationship. Serle's fans may be forgiving regarding the trick she deploys to make it possible for Katy and Carol to meet across time, though for most it will strain credulity. Still, the mother-daughter bond is made palpable through Katy's grief and desire for connection. Once again, Serle gets the job done just fine. Agent: Erin Malone, WME. (Mar.)

Library Journal

When Carol Silver dies, her daughter Katy is unmoored. She escapes her disintegrating life and marriage by traveling to Italy, going on the trip she had planned to take with her mother, to the town where Carol had spent an extraordinary summer when she was a twentysomething figuring out her own life needs. Like Katy's sun-filled days in Positano, the novel spreads out, detailing delicious meals and indolent naps. Serle (In Five Years) deftly immerses readers into the landscape and evokes feelings of rest and recovery. But the novel details more than an escape from grief. It asks how one picks the life they want, for early in her stay Katy looks up and sees Carol as a young woman living her Positano sojourn. Serle does not dwell on the time slip but adroitly uses it to allow mother and daughter to connect and reconnect. VERDICT Going down as easy as a limoncello on a hot summer's day, this daydream of a story affirms what it means to love and be loved. An enchanting book for the last cold days of winter, but also suggest it to readers come summer.--Neal Wyatt

Kirkus Reviews

A 30-year-old married woman from Los Angeles, finding herself adrift after her mother's death, travels to Italy on a long-awaited vacation they had planned to take together. Katy Silver's one and only true love is her mother. Her mother is--was--her first call, her last call, her everything. When Carol dies after a long illness, Katy is so overcomewith grief she cannot imagine continuing her life as it was. Already on leave from work to tend to her mother, she tells her husband, Eric, that she needs space and heads to the vacation in Positano, Italy, that she and her mother had been planning. The purpose of the trip had been for Katy to see for herself the location, food, and scenery of a life-changing trip Carol had taken in her youth. Once Katy arrives at the Hotel Poseidon, she locks her wedding and engagement rings and her cellphone in the hotel room's safe and begins to wander, experiencing the timelessness of Italy. Although in this instance, that timelessness is literal. Not long after Katy's arrival, a younger version of Carol appears. The two strike up a friendship, and Katy leans into this unexpected--and inexplicable--time with her mother. She also leans into a potential are-they-or-aren't-they-going-to-do-it romance with Adam, another guest at the hotel. This is a story about how Katy tries to discover who she is as a person and what she wants once she is away from her mother's wide-ranging opinions and expertise and her husband's love, calmness, and happiness with routine. What Katy finds is that her mother isn't who she thought she was, but then again, neither is she. An unconventional love story that embraces people's flaws and selfishness as part of what makes them human. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


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