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In The Shadow of The Apennines

Rating: 4 out of 5

"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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