Cover Image: In The Shadow of The Apennines

In The Shadow of The Apennines

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An uplifting book about overcoming one's hardships. This book felt relatable in some ways. It gave me compassion, empathy and understanding for Samantha, the main character. This book had some laugh out loud moments but also moments which brought on tears. Absolutely enjoyed this one.
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Samantha chooses the small town of Marsicano almost on a whim. She is trying to run from a failed marriage, and escape the people that were once in her life, so moving to Italy seems the furthest away she can get to seclude herself in a new life. But, Marsicano is a very close-knit community, and an American inviting herself in doesn’t necessarily mean she is welcome.

In an attempt to keep her writing going while she has no novel ideas, Samantha begins writing a travel blog, and it just so happens that the most popular posts are the ones where Samantha makes fun of the inhabitants of Marsicano. When everyone finds out about it, Samantha is ostracised even more than she was already. Now avoiding the people in her new life, as well as her old, Samantha finds herself utterly alone. That is, until she comes across some diaries, hidden within her new house, belonging to one of the owners of the house in the early 1900s. Samantha finds her only friend in Elena, and spends many hours reading about the woman, and how she survived the 1915 Pescina earthquake.

Samantha is a character I couldn’t decide whether I liked or not. She makes a lot of mistakes and upsets the people around her, but she also goes through a lot and struggles to get by on her own. I sympathised with her, but I couldn’t excuse a lot of the things she did. As she spends more time reading about Elena’s life, she starts to grow more sure of herself, and she becomes a lot easier to like. She finds herself learning she can live by herself, that she needn't be dependent on others to be happy. Elena certainly brings out the best side of Samantha.

The setting of this book is described absolutely beautifully. I have always wanted to go to Italy, but have, in the meantime, resorted to visiting through novels. This book didn’t disappoint with the stunning scenery, and the author clearly knows the area’s geography and history well, and it came across clearly in the writing. The terror of the 1915 earthquake, and the destruction it caused, comes across in both Elena’s story, as she witnesses it first-hand, and Samantha’s, as she looks back at the history. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like, and I truly felt for Elena as the events unfolded before her.

I absolutely adored Elena and her story. She is young and naive, but she loves with all her heart. She struggles with life, working hard to tend to the sheep while falling in love with a boy she has been forbidden to see. Elena is such a strong character, and I adored reading about her. Just through her written words, she gives Samantha courage, and she is truly an inspiration to read about. She lives through losing her family and close friends to the 1915 earthquake, and the build-up to the Great War, and somehow still finds the strength to keep going. Once this book reached Elena’s story, I found it next to impossible to put down. The second half of this book is truly amazing, and I loved reading it.

The way this book is laid out confused me a bit. There is a lot of jumping back and forth between the past and the present, and several storylines that I felt were entirely unnecessary, such as Samantha’s mother’s backstory. From the way the blurb described this book, I expected Elena’s story to run alongside Samantha’s, but we actually don’t learn anything about Elena’s diaries until well over halfway through the book. The parallels between Samantha and Elena’s lives are not as clear as they could be, had their lives played out alongside each other. The story picks up a lot once you reach Elena, but it does, unfortunately, take a while before you get to her.

I am not entirely sure whether the author has written a book that is entirely a historical novel, but if not, they should seriously consider doing so. The historical aspects of this novel were written wonderfully. While Samantha’s story was interesting to follow, Elena’s was absolutely fabulous. I couldn’t tear myself away from it. It is a small section of the book, but it really completed the story, and I loved reading it.

If you are a fan of books set in Italy and have a historical sub-plot, you will more than likely enjoy this book. As mentioned, the first half is a little slower, it does take a while to properly get into the book, but once you reach the mid-point, you will not be able to put it down.
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In the Shadow of the Apennines follows recent divorcee Samantha as she buys a run down house in small town Italy. There, she works to assimilate to the community, heal from her divorce, and write the next great novel. I thought that I would enjoy this story of rebuilding your life after a breakup and liked that it was set in small town Italy. I was also intrigued by the Italian shepherdess from the description that somehow impacted Samantha's life over 100 years later. 

I liked the setup of this book and the first few chapters. As it kept going, it felt like the same thing over and over again. Samantha curled up with a book and a cup of tea under her afghan and went to bed early so many times that I was surprised that she did literally anything else. I get you have a cozy life in an idyllic Italian town and don't have to work because you have so much money, but you don't have to rub it in every chapter! Not much else happens for 200 pages besides Samantha making everyone hate her because she started a mean blog making fun of her neighbors. Whyyy would you do that?? She doesn't even really apologize. Now the tea and books are really her only option because no one else wants to spend time with her. 

At this point, I looked back at the book description and noted the historical shepherdess tie in. I had less than 100 pages left with no sign of any shepherdesses and wondered if I somehow missed a huge chunk of the book. Nope, she comes in in the last 90 ish pages after Samantha stumbles across her journals. It turns out she used to live in this house and hid her journals in an old wardrobe. WHY this was not introduced earlier in the book I have no idea. I could have done with less tea, reading, and afghan descriptions and more shepherdess from the 1910s earlier in the book. Then Samantha and the shepherdess's lives parallel each other so closely that it's hilarious. Samantha at one point even thinks something like, "it's almost as if we are on the same path 100 years later! I can't believe we live in the same house and have all of these shared life experiences!" Yeah, Samantha. It's almost as if you're in a novel and leading EXACTLY the same life. However, instead of losing all of your family in an earthquake and having a child while unmarried in 1910s small town Italy and getting socially exiled, you were mean online to your neighbors. One of these things is slightly more compelling. 

Overall, the last 100 pages got me as the whole ending and resolution felt super rushed and dumb. I wish finding the journals happened way earlier. 2.45 stars from me. I would recommend this book if you want a light  read and want some wish fulfillment about curling up with your tea, book, or afghan night after night. However, I believe in you to achieve your dream independently. Thank you to Kimberly Sullivan and NetGalley for the electronic advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!
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Absolutely riveting story! I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.

In The Shadow of the Apennines, the new novel by Kimberly Sullivan, is the wonderfully mesmerizing story of a woman coming to terms with her life and future as everything around her implodes. Samantha Burke Thorpe is a believable and sympathetic character who makes some understandable and human mistakes when her life goes off the rails. 

This poor woman is hit with a double whammy; her professor husband of 24 years leaves her for one of his Ph.D. students, and she loses the job she loves all in the space of months. Either of these events would be devastating enough, and I ached for this woman. Samantha isn't weathering these blows from a position of power, either. She's pretty much subjugated her own dreams and personality to reflect her successful husband's glory, so there is an introspective look at her past and how she got to where she is as the novel opens. She has regrets and doubts and questions how things would have turned out if she'd made other choices in her life. Then the surprises start, and plot twists keep coming. 

The story is that of two women, Samantha in the present day and Elena, a prior occupant of the cottage, at the start of World War I. Elena's story is revealed to Samantha through her discovery of Elena's journals. I loved the parallels between the two women's lives (and the similarities between their mothers' experiences.)  The details and tidbits of the area's history and time period were fascinating.

Set in the fictional village of Marsicano in the Apennine Mountains of Italy, you can almost breathe the mountain air, much like each newcomer to the area notes. The descriptions of the village, the mountains, and some of the locations Samantha visits had me wanting to plan a vacation right away. The story was even set at the same time of year when I was reading it (Christmas, winter), making it that much easier to visualize the locations. There are some great supporting characters, many of whom the main character alienates when she comes under the spell of social media success. 

With an exceptionally relatable main character, an exciting and compelling setting, and an absorbing dual timeline plot, I recommend IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES to readers of contemporary and historical women's fiction.
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IN THE SHADOW OF THE APENNINES is a beautiful story embracing the theme of women helping women, and author Kimberly Sullivan gives the theme an inventive twist by creating the emotional connection across time. 

In present-day Italy, a newly divorced woman. Samantha, travels to a remote Italian mountainside village to take stock of her mistakes and attempt to find a fresh start. In blind pursuit of a new future, she falters and sabotages herself. Alone, desperate, she discovers the forgotten journal of a young Italian girl, Elena, two generations into the past, and through its pages forms a connection. 

Time dissolves as Samantha and Elena share common life circumstances: Their young innocence and naivety have been taken advantage of by a man’s manipulation. They are both isolated and lonely and yearn for something better. Their physical settings interweave too, such as when Samantha visits the archeological sites where Elena once lived. These parallels engross Samantha in Elena’s story – for if Elena overcame her mistakes, perhaps she will too. The reader gets caught caring for both women’s stories to resolve happily. 

In addition to the emotional story, I enjoyed Sullivan’s vivid descriptions of the gorgeous Appenine Mountain vistas. She also deftly weaves in past historical events—like the 1915 earthquake that destroyed Pescina, a mountain town, as well as the beginning of WWI and Italy’s vacillation on whether to join the war—to give the reader a window on Italy’s worldview at that time. Sullivan delivers a novel as a wonderful reflection of how the past can burst to life in the present.
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I received an advance review copy for free and am leaving this review voluntarily. Thank you @KimberlyInRome and @KateRockBookTours for my #giftedbook!

I loved this book! What a beautiful story, it is engaging and fun to read. I have always wanted to go to Italy and after reading this book with its vivid descriptions, I am moving it up on my travel list.

The characters are interesting and complex which added a level of depth that I really enjoyed. The book flows nicely and I like the author's writing style. This author has a gift of weaving complex life situations in one moving book about coming of age and facing traumas head on.

I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this author!
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3.5  stars *** (rounded up to 4)

A story of the parallel lives of an American Divorceé and an Italian shepherdess set against the dreamlike backdrop of the beautiful town of Abruzzo. Cleverly intertwined stories of love, loss, heartbreak and putting the pieces back together. Over all this was a beautiful story with a lot of heart and sweet characters. It was well written and easy to follow.

I particularly enjoyed the idealistic setting of this story, it was beautifully described and reignited my desire to travel to Italy once again! I also loved the many parallels between the two strong female heroines and beautifully meaningful way in which their stories came together. 

I did feel there were a few pacing things which could have perhaps been better laid out, as the first 40% of the story seemed a bit slower, but once the journals entered and the parallel stories began it was absolutely engrossing until the end. While it did take me a little more effort than usual to get into the story initially, by the end I found it all came together perfectly and left it feeling heartwarmingly satisfied. 

I would certainly be picking up any future releases by Kimberly Sullivan.

Thank you to author , Kimberly Sullivan and Netgalley for an eARC of this beautiful story in exchange for my honest review.
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An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess. Separated by a century, united by common dreams.

The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and disastrous university career. Eager for a fresh start, Samantha begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway.

Thus begins In the Shadow of the Apennines, a historical fiction, dual timeline story of Samantha in the present and Elena, in 1915 Abruzzo and a survivor of the 1915 earthquake that decimated her village. The first half of the book focuses solely on Samantha and relies heavily on flashbacks as we learn about her past and what brought her to Italy. She seems to have made a series of unwise choices, including her marriage to an egotistical college professor, and it took me a long time to warm up to her. The twist midway was easy to see coming and her blog posts demonstrated more unwise choices.

Fortunately, once we begin Elena's story and learn of her journals, the story picks up and is much more engaging. We learn about Elena's life in a small Italian village firmly under the control of a wealthy, aristocratic family. Families scrape by with what little work and farming they can find and the looming threat of WW I hangs over the entire community. Through the journals and Elena's story, Samantha begins to grow and gain confidence as she learns to overcome the barriers she created. She begins to feel like a real, more likable individual through the last half of the story.

The author's descriptions of the majestic Italian mountain range and the communities were breathtakingly beautiful and the horrors of the 1915 earthquake felt all too real. Overall, this is an interesting story with a unique focus and lovely setting. More like 3.5 stars for me.
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I was not sure what to think about that book at first. Kimberly Sullivan spends a lot of time developing Samantha’s life, an American divorcée who decides to immigrate to Italy to start her life over. It is sometimes slow, very slow, the author spending a lot of time explaining her heroine’s backstory. But I particularly enjoyed all the depictions of the country. There is a lot of delicious food and beautiful scenery. There is no stereotype. The author definitely loves the country and shares it in her book.

The story takes a very interesting turn when Samantha discovers the diaries of Elena, a young shepherdess that lived in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. At that point, the novel becomes part historical novel and we discover the destinies of not one, but two women linked by their love of writing.

In The Shadow of The Apennines is a cozy novel, with romance, history, culture and mystery. I overall enjoyed it, despite some events happening unexpectedly to Samantha, making her character sometimes difficult to like. If you love stories taking place in beautiful Italian mountains, travel and woman fiction, this novel will be perfect for you !
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"Always know your own worth. Don't ever let anyone allow you to doubt just how special you are." 
"Love makes liars of us all. Even the most honest and best intentioned of us will eventually resort to deception to see the one we pine for." 
 

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Sexual Assault, Mention of Abortion, Infertility, Suicide Attempt (All briefly mentioned)


	The sleepy Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and university career. Eager for a new start she begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway. Her new home at first appears idyllic, but her clumsy attempts to join the closed community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover her blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants. Increasingly isolated in her cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates them, Samantha is increasingly drawn to Elena's life, and discovers parallels with her own. 

	This book begins in the middle of the story providing just enough information to set the tone. It then goes back in time and fills us in on the events that led to Samantha residing in this town and a world away from friends and family. The first half of the novel shows Samantha very retrospective of her life and contemplating all the what ifs. Sullivan does a marvelous job of drawing the reader into Samantha's world and it quickly becomes possible to empathize with her. Samantha is seeking to start over again and do something for herself after being in a relationship where she lost herself for her husband. 

	I will admit that at first I felt the story was dragging but I didn't even care because the author managed to paint a wonderful narrative. I could visualize all the things she was discussing with no problem. I found myself completely immersed in the story and wanting more. And once Samantha discovered Elena's letters and diaries, I was so enthralled I could not put the book down. The author does an amazing job of creating a parallel between 16 year old Elena's life and Samantha's. Elena's journal entries were engaging and her story so fascinating that I just wanted more of it the whole time. The story is written so well that you are instantly transported to 1914 with Elena. Sullivan has created a marvelous story showcasing two amazing women. You will not regret reading this one.
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Thank you @katerockbooktours for the opportunity to read this beautiful redeeming story. I loved getting to know Samantha as she discovered herself.

Kimberly Rome does an incredible job of weaving the past and present in this story. The way she had Samantha fall in and out of love with people, places, and stories was just magnificent.

This is on sale for only ninety nine pennies! Snatch it up!
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There are several reasons why this book is different from others in the Italian historical fiction category. I just love the setting in the high mountains of Abruzzo. I love the emotional journey of the characters and how they transform over the course of the story in unexpected ways. The author joins the two women's journeys in an enthusiastic and compelling novel. 
My only suggestion is that I would like to see the shepherdess story-line begin earlier in the book. But in another way, it became the carrot I was reading towards. In the Shadow of the Apennines is a fine work that allows readers to challenge their feelings and learn about this time in Italian History.
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A beautiful story about second chances and adventures in life with the backdrop.of a gorgeous Italian mountain village.  While reading Kimberly Sullivan's detailed setting descriptions, I felt as I was walking or hiking alongside Samantha.  With Elena's journals, history of the early 1900s is brought alive in this book and gave a great glimpse into a new to me culture.  This story was so heartwarming and I have been thinking about both Samantha and Elena even when I cannot be with them and continuing their story.  Thank you to Kimberly Sullivan and Kate Rock Book Tours for an advanced copy!  All thoughts and opinions are my own!
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In the Shadow of the Apennines tells the story of Samantha, an American divorcee starting over in the small fictional mountain town of Marsicano Italy. Samantha struggles to rebuild her life and finds herself on the outside of the community and feels utterly alone until she finds abandon journals in a wardrobe of her new house. The journals tell the story of a young Elena and her journey shares eerie similarities with Samantha’s own present day journey. As Samantha becomes connected to the journals, she begins to heal and find herself again and the strength to start anew. 

This story is told in three time frames. The first two thirds of the book is told via present day and flashbacks to how Samantha’s life reached that point. The last third of the book primarily tells the story of Elena via the journals and how they tie into Samantha’s current situation. For me it took a bit to warm up to Samantha but once she stopped being so down and hard on herself I was able to connect better with her. I feel like the ending wrapped up rather quickly but I do really appreciate the epilogue and the closure it gave Samantha. 


Thank you @katerockbooktours and @netgalley for this eARC in exchange for my honest feedback.
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I picked up this delightful book on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was instantly transported into beautiful Italy!

When Samantha, an American divorcee, flees from her failed marriage and ruined career, she decides to start a new life in Italy. She purchases a stone cottage, starts renovations, and totally immerses herself into village life as she awaits inspiration for her writing. Soon however, she needs money and she resorts to writing a sarcastic blog poking fun at the people who live in the village. When everyone turns their backs on Samantha she is forced into isolation. She finds a diary that once belonged to a young woman who lived in the cottage over 100 years ago. Samantha reads the diary and soon becomes totally engrossed in another world as she discovers that the writer of the diary was on a similar path! 

I really enjoyed this author’s writing style. I loved the descriptions of Italy, the food, and the people. The main character, Samantha, mourned the loss of her marriage, her career, and family relationships. It took her awhile to work through her pain and move forward. I always enjoy an introspective story where issues get resolved! Read this if you enjoy women’s fiction, travel stories, or ‘starting over’ stories.

Thank you 
@KimberlyInRome @KateRockBookTours for my #gifted digital copy. My thoughts are my own.
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A truly heartfelt thank you to Kimberly and to Kate Rock with Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the tour and for this AMAZING story!

Samantha, our main character flees from her failed marriage and lost job in New York. She runs to an Italian Mountain to seek refuge and start again. Her plans are to begin writing again after years of not being able to. Things begin great but, take a detour when the towns residents discover Samantha’s blog about them, which isn’t too kind. After being outed, she discovers a hidden trunk and in it are some very old diaries. Diaries that keep her interested, curious and reveal some very sad and wonderful words. The diaries of Elena’s refresh Samantha’s life and she feels connected to Elena, even after being separated by an entire century!

I devoured and craved this book and thoroughly enjoyed this story! The way these two womens lives were intertwined was a breath of fresh air. I loved the way the past was included in the present. The stories, the hardships, the tragicness. It was beautiful and it kept my attention, in fact, I actually want more like this. I love the idea of being able to intersect the past with the present, secret diaries that hold so much truth and love and sadness. The ability to learn and change our current lives based off of history is a wonderful thing. Kimberly did a truly awesome job of writing this, the creativity is there and in your face. The setting sounds breathtaking and makes me want to fly to Italy now! I’ve always been interested in small towns that have rich histories. This is a definite highly recommended read! Five stars!!
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It’s a rare joy to be pulled into a book where I begin by disliking the protagonist. I was fascinated by the way Samantha Burke pushed my buttons.
 
Her personal and professional life are both failures. She’s fled to the seclusion of a remote Italian village because the isolation and simplicity it offers drew her there. She wants what they have. Yet she still publishes a blog that belittles the town and its residents.
 
Belittles them in favor of what? An acerbic, overeducated divorced woman whose life is such a wet firework she felt compelled to travel halfway around the world to escape it? Enduring a writing career that’s rewarded neither herself nor her sparse population of readers, perhaps she’d be better served aiming that rhetorical buckshot at herself and not at the neighbors she went far out of her own way to choose.
 
I was so put off by Samantha’s journaling I almost wanted to close the book and forget about her.
 
A two-fanged promise kept me reading IN THE SHADOW APENNINES, and this dyad was delivered with a joyful bite: the majestically vivid descriptions of the Marsicani mountains (how I’d now love to visit!) and the historical fun of meeting Elena, a teenager whose own century-old diary rocks Samantha’s world.
 
The power of human expression bridges time and space to unite two very distinct women living utterly different lives. The discovery of Elena’s antique journal kickstarts a much-needed process of self-reflection for Burke. 

Reading deeply into Elena’s experience with a natural disaster and the trials of World War I, Samantha grows and at least one reader becomes grateful he stuck around for a wonderful, original story.
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Set in the rugged Apennine mountains of Italy, the author deftly weaves a dual timeline tale of an American woman's escape there after a soul-crushing divorce and an Italian shepherdess' struggle to survive love and loss after a devastating earthquake strikes the same town during WWI.   In the course of settling into her new home  Samantha, the modern-day protagonist, stumbles across the diary of Elena, the young Italian woman who lived in her stone cottage a century earlier.  The emotional journeys of the two women become increasingly parallel as Samantha discovers more and more about the events that shaped Elena’s life.  To be honest as a fan of HF I enjoyed Elena's story far better, yet it was a good story.
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In The Shadow of The Apennines is a book I wanted to love, but the overwhelming amount of flaws kept it from being the standout I hoped it would be. The number one issue I had is the pacing. The first half of the book was spent explaining the backstory of Samantha, how she met her ex-husband Michael and what happened after he asked for a divorce. It took until 45% of the book for a new love interest to be introduced and once he was, the surprise pregnancy trope hit which is a personal dislike of mine. I could have overlooked my least favorite trope if it didn't take 58% of the book for the introduction of the dual timeline with Elena's journal. To be honest, I would have much preferred a full length novel about Elena, Serafino, the earthquake, the recovery and her journey to America to avoid Serafino's mother than reading about Samantha. If Samantha was a real life person, she is someone who I would have avoided like the plague. She doesn't have the emotional maturity I would expect from someone her age and the whiny/woe is me internal monologue was just tired and boring. In contrast, we got just enough information about Elena to make me rush through the Samantha parts to get back to Elena. And again, the surprise pregnancy and not telling the father, a double whammy of 'ugh' wasn't enjoyable to read. 

Overall I would consider this book a middle of the road for me. Samantha, who's story is prominent, will be forgotten about but I'll remember Elena and hers which is ultimately why I'm giving this book 3 stars. 

Thank you so much for giving me access to an eARC in exchange for feedback.
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In the Shadow of the Apennines transported me straight to village life in Abruzzo, Italy and made me feel like I had known the characters all my life. I became quickly invested in their stories and that feeling only increased the more I read! The book follows Samantha, who has just lost her university job and her husband of 25 years (to a younger woman). In hopes of healing her heartbreak and re-igniting her writing career, she moves to a small town in Abruzzo, Italy and tries to settle into rural village life while still haunted by her past. After running afoul of the locals, she is effectively shunned and secluded in her small mountain cottage. It’s then that she finds the hidden journals of Elena, a 16 year old peasant girl navigating the harsh rural life and struggling with poverty on the eve of World War I. Samantha becomes fully engrossed in Elena’s story (I did too!), which although separated by a century, has shocking similarities to her own.

Beware that the book’s synopsis is quite deceiving, as it focuses on Samantha finding Elena’s journals, which doesn’t happen until past the halfway mark. This can leave you trying to speed through to get to “the crux” of the story, but that does a huge disservice to the first half of the book, as the flashbacks of Samantha’s life and marriage and the chapters of her settling into village life and meeting the local cast of characters are great and integral to the story. 

P.s. I’m hoping for a sequel!
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