The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Bowen’s historical novel, The Tuscan Child, is a gratifying read. 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Joanna and her father, Sir Hugo, couldn’t be more different. After his death, Joanna is startled to find a love letter to a woman in Italy. 

Intrigued, Joanna goes to San Salvatore in Italy, to discover more about her father’s life. She knew he had crashed while serving in World War II but she had not known the exact location, San Salvatore, a hill town in Tuscany.

Though there are no hotels in San Salvatore, Joanna finds a comfortable place to stay. She feels at home with Paola’s family until a strange event occurs. Someone has drowned one of the local men in the well near Joanna’s rented room.

Police think Joanna, a foreigner, is suspicious, even though she insists she has nothing to do with the man’s murder.

Renzo, the son of a rich landowner in San Salvatore, has a connection to her father and the woman he names in the letter, Sofia Bartoli. Is he the “beautiful boy” her father mentions in the same letter?

The novel takes many twists and turns and Joanna learns what’s true and what’s false. 

At the Corpus Christi festival she beings to see Renzo in a new light.  Though she does not trust Renzo, something is drawing her and him together.

This is a charming World War II story with light intrigue and light romance.

Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

This is a novel that pulls readers in immediately because there’s so much at stake for Yasmin and her daughter, Ruby. The pair hope to rescue Matt, Yasmin’s husband and Ruby’s father, from an outpost in Northern Alaska that burned to the ground.

Despite a terrible childhood, Yasmin has found the love of her life in Matt whose adventurous spirit matches her own. Even with a few challenges–like her daughter’s disability and Matt’s tendency to wander, Yasmin believes in his love.

Police, however, have decided there are no survivors. Refusing to give up hope, Yasmin and Ruby make their way North by convincing a truck driver to take them to DeadHorse. From there they hope to take a taxi plane to Anaktue.

Yasmin takes matters into her own hands when he becomes ill; she drives the truck herself across dangerous icy roads.

Fans of psychological suspense will love Lupton’s foray into the world of ice trucking. This is a complex novel about motherhood, disability, and ethical choices.

On one hand, Yasmin has felt that becoming a mother (especially a mother to a child who is so vulnerable) has made her invisible:

“It shocked her to realize that for years she’d felt bland, dull even to herself. Around her, everyone else’s characters were clearly defined, the borders of their personalities etched sharply, but not hers. She’d had tasks and chores and love for Ruby, huge love for her, but how would she have described who she was? Somewhere along the line she’d lost the idea of herself.”

Thus, the mother’s dangerous quest to find her husband is also quest to find her lost self. Yasmin endures the bitter cold of the Dalton highway, a possible stalker and the hazards of trucking during a storm.

Equally brave, Ruby decides how and when she’ll use her voice. Despite her mother’s repeated requests that she use her real voice, Ruby uses “Voice Magic” and twitter. In one courageous move at the end, Ruby uses this technology to thwart the evil doers who wish to harm her family.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

This memoir, which is in four parts, is Dani Shapiro’s most intimate memoir to date. Shapiro who has always considered herself her father’s daughter is devastated to learn that he is not her biological father.

Despite clues along the way, nothing clicks until she takes a DNA test. She expected to find that she is 100% Jewish but the test reveals something else altogether. She is biologically related to her mother but not to her father. 

Gradually, more details come to light. Before Shapiro was born, her parents had visited an infertility clinic known to mix sperm. Though she hopes her parents had not concealed anything from her, it becomes obvious they knew she was donor-conceived. 

Shapiro claims she had always known something was amiss. For Shapiro, who was devoted to her father, but always felt at odds with her family, the DNA results answer many troubling questions. The DNA results opens old wounds, leaving Shaprio completely unmoored. 

She describes how lost she feels in poetic language:

“I am the black box, discovered years–many years–after the crash. The pilots, the crew, the passengers have long been committed to the sea. Nothing is left of them. Fathoms deep, I have spent my life transmitting the faintest signal…I am also the diver who has discovered the black box…I had been looking for it all my life without knowing it existed.”

Eventually, she has a meeting with her biological father whom she strongly resembles. They are brought together through the magic of social media.
Shapiro digs deeper, investigating the way cryobanks currently operate. She interviews dozens of donor-conceived individual who feel just as exiled and lost as she does.

As she forges deeper relationships with her biological family, however, Shapiro begins to see everything in a new light: as a blessing.  

Shapiro, who was raised as an orthodox Jew, is peppered with Jewish phrases and expressions. Her identity is still firmly Jewish, even if she is half Christian.

She puts all of her previous writings in perspective, realizing nearly all of her works were about family secrets.

Though she gives her social father “kol hakavod” (all the honor), she comes to cherish her biological one as well.

Shapiro’s story is so important in this age when DNA kits are becoming more and more recreational. As more and more individuals have genetic testing done, more connections will be made. The likelihood of family secrets becoming accidently unearthed–as Shapiro’s had–will increase over time.