Monday, July 29, 2013

At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell (Review)

AT LEAST YOU'RE IN TUSCANY becomes author Jennifer Criswell's mantra after she lands in Italy and things begin to go awry.

About the book

When dream meets reality. . . 

Endless fields of flame-like poppies. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The sweet, rhythmic chime of church bells

Months upon months of unemployment? Struggling to communicate with locals? Duvets frozen on the clothesline? 

Jennifer Criswell's move from New York City to Tuscany was not supposed to go like this. She had envisioned lazy mornings sipping espresso while penning a best-selling novel and jovial group dinners, just like in the movies and books about expatriate life in Italy.

Then she met reality: no work, constant struggles with Italian bureaucracy to claim citizenship through her ancestors, and perhaps worst of all, becoming the talk of the town after her torrid affair with a local fruit vendor. 

At Least You're in Tuscany is the intimate, honest, and often hilarious tale of Jennifer's first year in Montepulciano. During that time, Jennifer's internal optimist was forced to work overtime, reminding her that if she were going to be homeless, lonely, and broke, at least she would be all those things--in Tuscany. 

Through all her small-town bumblings, though, Jennifer's mantra, along with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and willingness to learn about Italian culture, helped her not only build a new, rewarding life in Italy but also find herself along the way.

Jennifer Criswell

Jennifer Criswell is a lawyer turned writer.  After a trip to Italy in 2001 changed her life and her direction, she chucked her legal briefs to pursue her love of writing.  Jennifer followed this dream to New York City where she supported herself (just) for over six years by walking dogs on the Upper West Side.

Jennifer has authored three novels, and her current project, AT LEAST YOU’RE IN TUSCANY: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life, is an honest and funny memoir about the reality of following your dream.

Jennifer lives and writes in a small hill town in Italy with her sidekick of a Weimaraner, Cinder.  They are always on the look out for new adventures… and new gelato flavors!


Turns out, that phrase "At least you're in Tuscany" comes up a lot; and becomes a mantra of sorts for the author. Everything will be okay because "at least you're in Tuscany".  Frozen comforters? At least you're in Tuscany. Months of unemployment? At least you're in Tuscany. Beautiful church bells? At least you're in Tuscany. You have no friends and can't speak the language. At least you're in Tuscany. "If I was going to be homeless, at least I would be Tuscany."    

I thought the book was well written, and contained such vivid descriptions that the reader could easily be transported to Tuscany. I could smell the flowers in the fields, see the goats on the hillside, and enjoy coffee at a side-walk cafe. Jennifer's life, since picking up and moving to Tuscany, has been anything but easy. She handles it with as much grace and dignity as she can muster, and when needed, picks herself up by her sandal straps and keeps on going.

I think we all, at one or another, dream of moving to a romantic country. The book is an eye opener about the intricacies of achieving that dream; gaining citizenship and then employment in a foreign country. Jennifer Criswell tells her tale honestly and with humor and sincerity. One page may find you laughing out loud, while the next will find you with tears in your eyes, as you learn the sometimes difficult lessons of moving to another country with her. 

The one drawback to the book, in my opinion, was one of things I also enjoyed - the Italian language. I do not speak Italian, and while it was wonderful to have the language dispersed throughout the book, it was also a deterrent. There were just as many instances that I figured the word out, as not. I would have appreciated the author including the English word in parenthesis

In her book AT LEAST YOU'RE IN TUSCANY, Jennifer Criswell captures your heart as you begin to repeat her mantra over and over, as you fall in love with Tuscany. I'm giving this book 5 stars. 

Publication Date: October 23, 2012

Purchase At Least You're in Tuscany on Amazon.
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