Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Netgalley Review: At Least You're In Tuscany

A while back, I went through an obsessive phase with the American expat experience. I think I just needed to read about big adventures and different ways of life. I started following Design Mom and her sister Oh Happy Day (who were both living in France at the time), Ameringlish (England), Practically Perfect (New Zealand), and We Found Happiness (Nigeria, now back in the US), among others. While I've lost the urge to virtually move across the globe, I'm still very interested in expat stories, and At Least You're in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life by Jennifer Criswell is a great one.

As a young woman, Criswell took an extended trip to Italy and knew she had found her true home. Years and several more visits later, she finally leaves New York and moves to Montepulciano, Tuscany, with her dog Cinder. Despite careful preparation, she hits roadblocks from the start - a rude landlady, social isolation, difficulty speaking Italian, and most of all, serious financial trouble because she can't work. Her Sicilian ancestry entitles her to Italian citizenship, but of course, what was presented as an easy process takes much longer than anticipated. In the meantime, no one will hire her under the table. Much of this memoir is simply about looking for work in a small town, but Criswell makes it interesting. On the non-work front, she's dismayed to be dumped by old friends in the area, but eventually finds new ones in unexpected places - and has a fling with a charming, classically Italian produce vendor. :) I also loved the stories of the grape and olive harvests she participates in, although I totally believe her that the work is less romantic than it sounds.

At Least You're In Tuscany doesn't sugarcoat the challenges of moving overseas, but affirms that for those who really want to make the move, it's worth it. It's a great resource for expats, a great read for anyone interested in travel and/or Italy, and a general encouragement that hard times eventually end!

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