After the sudden death of her Italian winemaker husband, Meryl Michelli flees to her small hometown in Pennsylvania, looking to slam the door on heartache and trudge forward. But it's never that simple, especially when old family ties have been strained by years of geographic and emotional distance. A chance encounter with a childhood friend brings back betrayal she could never put to rest, and readjusting to life in the States in upper mid-life wears her thin in ways she never could have imagined. Just when Meryl feels she can't go on, Providence steps in and gives her permission to completely fall apart. Only then can she finally manage to grieve both her magnanimous, flawed Francesco and the unforgettable country she left behind. True Vines traverses the manicured rows of northern Italy's majestic wine country and the winding path of the Pennsylvania's Delaware River as Meryl seeks to reconcile her past and her present.
"True Vines is the rich and moving story of Meryl Kramer Minchelli, a tough Pennsylvania woman who finds love after twisting her ankle on a dreary New York day. The story is told beginning in the present, as she returns to Pennsylvania after the death of her husband Francesco, and then flashes back for the middle section to her life in Italy with him.
The novel is enormously satisfying emotionally -- you feel for Meryl as she grieves and tries to find her way forward in her new life without Francesco. As you learn more and more about her difficult past, you root for her to find the love and appreciation that will allow her to flourish.
Strinati Baur has presented us with a pretty large cast of characters, but I never had trouble keeping them separate or understanding their place in the story. The depth that she goes into in this way makes you really care about everyone, and I stayed up much later than I should have both nights I was reading the book because I always just wanted to know a little MORE -- it was just too seductive to keep turning the pages and see what else I would learn about Meryl, Francesco, Janie, Jen, Letizia, Carla and on and on.
Strinati Baur also really hit me with her lush descriptions of fall in Pennsylvania and Italy. Fall is my favorite season too, and I found myself underlining passages so that I'll be able to return and enjoy them again (warning that the descriptions will make you want to go spend some time by a beautiful river in Pennsylvania or make a journey to the wine country in Piedmont!!).
The author has weaved a beautiful, rich canvas here. It was a pleasure to live with Meryl for a few days, and I'm sorry to be done with the book now! I guess that tells it all. A wonderful read."
Amazon Review - Kimberly Baker
Several people on each side of the Atlantic guide her as she relives her own stories: a spirited sister-in-law, a petulant physician, a strong-willed landlady, a good-guy boss, a determined mother-in-law, an amazing flood surviver, a Senegalese English student, a young co-worker. Each recollection and encounter deepens Meryl's insight into how to make peace with her new reality. Saying goodbye to one existence allows Meryl to swing the door open to another as she weaves a new, uniquely beautiful tapestry that transports her to exactly the place in this short sacred life she is meant to be.