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Book club questions for One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle takes an in-depth look at this novel about a mother and daughter. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I really enjoyed this novel! From the setting to Katy and Carol’s impactful dynamic in Italy to all the sightseeing, the food, etc.—just a great novel all around. It’s one of the most vivid stories I’ve read in quite some time.
Rebecca Serle is crafting a great niche with her magical realism stories. I think I rank this one my favorite of hers so far with In Five Years as a close second. Let me know your thoughts about this story!
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: to Positano, the magical town where 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.
Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and a daughter. With her signature “heartbreaking, redemptive, and authentic” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.
Book Club Questions for One Italian Summer
- The story starts after Carol had died. Katy is a wreck without her, and at the same time, seems ambivalent to her husband, Eric. What are your thoughts about this line—if your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband? What do you make of her frustration with her relationship with Eric?
- The author Rebecca Serle provides an introspective look into Katy’s grief about losing her mom. Let’s talk about their close relationship.
- Why did Katy decide to go on the Italian vacation?
- Have you ever been to Positano and the Amalfi Coast? Or would you want visit one day?
- When Katy arrives to Positano, she is completely taken in with the scenery, the food, the people. How did it help start her healing journey making this big trip on her own?
- What did you think when she first ran into Carol as a 30-year-old woman? How would you have reacted if you were in Katy’s position? What did you think about their dynamic in Italy?
- Katy embarks on a fling with Adam who is also staying at the hotel. What did she learn from this fling with Adam?
- Did you sense that, beyond Carol being alive and in her 30s, something else was off about this visit to Positano? Or were you surprised that Katy was actually in the 1990s and not present day?
- We never got the actual reasoning why Kate went to 1990s Positano—what do you believe actually happened? Did she time travel, was it a dream or something else?
- We learn a big secret from Carol—she left behind Katy as an infant to find herself in Italy before eventually returning home. Let’s talk about the impact this revelation had on Katy.
- Katy is devastated and, in hurt and anger, she reveals who she is to a very shocked Carol. Do you think Carol deep down knew the truth about Katy?
- While Katy looks back at her relationship with her mother as perfect, she starts to realize there were some cracks. For instance, she doesn’t make any decisions without her mother and she let her always take the lead. How did this realization help Katy grow and realize what changes she needs to make?
- What did you think about her reconciling with Eric? Did that make sense to you after her attitude toward him and the fling with Adam? How will their relationship be different moving forward?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for One Italian Summer! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
If you haven’t read it yet and enjoyed One Italian Summer, be sure to check out Rebecca’s previous novel, In Five Years. But definitely have those tissues handy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.
She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.
But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
For another story about family, be sure to check out The Guncle by Steven Rowley.
Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is, honestly, overwhelmed.
So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled acting career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting–even if temporary–isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
With the humor and heart we’ve come to expect from bestselling author Steven Rowley, The Guncle is a moving tribute to the power of love, patience, and family in even the most trying of times.