BWW Reviews: IMPERFECT PAIRINGS By Jackie Townsend
Americans have a definite vision of Italy - the only problem is that their vision of Italy is imaginary, built on movies, family stories, and romantic notions. And they have a definite vision of love in a day of careers coming first. So what happens when a career woman visits Italy with her Italian boyfriend of only a few months, and he decides he's returning?
That's the premise in IMPERFECT PAIRINGS by Jackie Townsend. Jamie meets Jack, who turns out to be Giovanni, and who takes her to his cousin's wedding - back home in Italy. There's family and business trouble there, and Jack decides to stay. It's Jamie's impulsive decision to stay there with him that powers the rest of the book.
IMPERFECT PAIRINGS has romance underlying it, but this winner of the Indie Reader Discovery Awards is not a romance novel - unless you consider it a love story about Italy, the real Italy most Americans never know. It's not the one seen on television, or in THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN; it's not tourist Italy or the imaginary Italy of Italian-Americans whose families haven't lived there in three generations. This is the Italy of small towns, side streets, country estates on back roads, and family - family everywhere. This novel explores Italian food, Italian wine, and the Italian wine industry that Jack's family dwells in.
It also explores whether or not you can, in fact, go home again; while Jack is reabsorbed into his family in Italy, Jamie finds that it's difficult to relate to the United States and to her sister's values after seeing a different side of the world. But it's equally difficult to relate to the expectations of a new country, an unknown language, and a man you've committed to more suddenly than not, and that provides a whole new set of challenges.
IMPERFECT PAIRINGS, like the wine at its center, is about growth - about the fermentation of ideas and emotions, the bottling-up of feelings and concerns, and about the proper aging of ideas and of people. It's a brilliantly-written small gem, with exquisite detail and equally exquisite crafting of language, by an American author with her own Italian husband and her own Italian experience. It's a guidebook to Italy, and a guidebook to how Italians really live their lives.
It's worthy of study, and the author has, in fact, a study guide for it at her website, jackietownsend.com. Published by Ripetta Press, her second novel, like a glass of Pinot Grigio, is a perfect antidote for an overstressed world, almost as calming as that trip to Italy you'll decide to take after reading it.