Photo: Early morning Tuscan landscape

Tuscany is the picturesque setting for Sarah-Kate Lynch's new novel, Dolci di Love.

Photograph by Fabio Muzzi, Aurora Photos

By Don George

Book of the Month:

Dolci di Love, by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Ah, Tuscany. It’s one of those rare regions whose very name almost instantaneously elicits a sigh. Just about anyone would be thrilled to settle for a spell in this paradisiacal slice of Italy. Anyone except Lily Turner, that is, the heroine of Sarah-Kate Lynch’s enchanting new novel, Dolci di Love. Turner is a successful American businesswoman whose fast-paced Manhattan lifestyle seems to suit her just fine, until she discovers that her husband has a second life—and family—in Italy. When she leaves Manhattan to confront the hubby in Montevedova (a fictional village based on real-life Montepulciano), a series of unexpected encounters ensues, orchestrated by a wily, wizened group called the Secret League of Widowed Darners.

Turner’s adventure allows ample opportunities to showcase the region’s renowned charms: rolling green hills and cobbled squares, vineyard rows and olive groves, pencil pines and terra-cotta-roofed villas, robust wine and luscious gelato. Lynch concocts equally memorable characters: the amiable Alessandro, who introduces Turner to the village rivalries and social complexities of the area; the winning young Francesca, with whom Turner develops a quick bond; and the endearing darners themselves, whose earthy intrigues reveal another side of the Tuscan character. As Turner’s quest unfolds, she journeys deeper and deeper into the interlaced layers of Tuscany—and into her own life’s layered disappointments and potentials as well. Tuscany proves a fertile setting for this tale of the resolutions and reinventions that travel can bestow.

New-Book Roundups:

Extreme Biking

Cycling Home from Siberia is Rob Lilwall’s account of his 30,000-mile, 3-year journey from Siberia back to London on a bicycle. Another English cyclist, Paul Howard, undertakes the Tour Divide—a more than 2,700-mile mountainbike race along the Continental Divide—and writes about it in Eat, Sleep, Ride (subtitled: “How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide”).

Vive La France

Winner of season three of The Next Food Network Star, Amy Finley gives up her budding TV career to focus on her troubled marriage. In her memoir, How to Eat a Small Country, she recounts her decision to take her family to France, where the everyday act of cooking and eating together around the country helps heal marital rifts. Courtly France is the setting for Madame Tussaud, Michelle Moran’s page-turner of a novel about the famous wax sculptor who survived the French Revolution by creating death masks of beheaded aristocracy.

If You Liked…

Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, check out Seeds, by Richard Horan, who sets out on an unusual quest to locate and collect seeds from trees belonging to the country’s most influential literary and historical figures. He gathers magnolia husks at Carson McCullers’s house in Columbus, Georgia; redwood cones outside the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur; and acorns at Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond. At the end his hope is that the seedlings will be planted into an arbor “for others to touch and see and, someday, to climb in, dream from, dance around, and write about.”

One Last Thing:

Inside the Enigma of India

India is one of the most fascinating and confounding countries I have ever visited, with its mix of sophistication, chaos, decay, and sublimity. After multiple visits, it still intimidates, repels, frustrates, and seduces me in equal measure. This is why Miranda Kennedy’s new memoir, Sideways on a Scooter, caught my eye. Kennedy was based in New Delhi for five years as a correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace and National Public Radio. That prolonged stint provided her with edgy insights into India old and new. In her book, she presents intimate portraits of the interconnected lives of six contemporary Indian women—some privileged, some poor—to illuminate the issues and idiosyncrasies that define everyday Indian life.

Don George has won numerous awards for his work as a travel writer and editor. He is the author of Travel Writing and the editor of eight literary travel anthologies, including Lights, Camera…Travel!, A Moveable Feast, and The Kindness of Strangers. E-mail Don at dgeorge@ngs.org.

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