Read, Run, Repeat

A tale of fitness, books, food, and life in between

Italian for Beginners {Book Review}

on February 7, 2014

It’s been quite some time since we talked books around here! I PROMISE that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading though! And interestingly, the book I’m posting about today is not from the book club that I’m in – sadly, I have not enjoyed either of the books we’ve read so far! Book club is on Monday, so maybe third time’s the charm? If you have any good book club suggestions, send ’em my way!

Last night I finished reading, Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel. Kristin is a new-to-me author, and when I picked the book out of the library, I thought it would be an easy fun to ready to throw in amidst my murder mysteries. It was definitely an easy read—but maybe that’s because I couldn’t put it down! It definitely did not end up being a “fluff” read at all!

The book synopsis reads: “Cat Connelly plays it safe. She’s an accountant with no debt who lives near her family in Manhattan. She’s also thirty-four, unmarried, and with nothing promising on her romantic horizon. After a humiliating incident at her sister’s wedding, she throws caution to the wind and flies off to Rome to find Francesco, the man she’d fallen in love with thirteen years earlier on a trip to Italy. When Francesco turns out to be a dud, Cat is adrift on the streets of Rome, no safety net in sight. With the help of an eccentric waitress with a spare apartment to rent, the handsome restaurateur who calls her Princess Ann, and the family secrets only Rome can unlock for her, Cat discovers that happiness can be found on the back of a speeding Vespa… but only if you’re willing to take a few risks.”

Cat is an extremely likeable character – but maybe that’s because she kind of reminded me so much of myself. She tends to play it safe and is always worried about what everyone else needs and wants. I think that women, especially those who are Type A, tend to do this a lot – leaving themselves on the back burner. But Cat also has a past that has created a lot of this stress and tendency to play it safe as well, and it has also created an immense burden that she carries around with her. It’s only when she starts to face her past and decided to stop playing it so safe that she really starts to find herself.

I kinda found myself wishing I could jump on a plane to a foreign place so that I could actually forget about everything else going on around me, and just focus on what I want and needed. I think that’s pretty much impossible to do in your daily life when you have responsibilities that you concentrate on!

There was a passage that really stuck out to me, and it read like this:

“But maybe the world wasn’t as black-and-white as I’d thought it was. Maybe I was ignoring a whole spectrum of colors. Funny how I could see all those complexities so sharply through the lens of my camera, but without it to hide behind, I reverted to the safe simplicity of wrong or right, without considering all the shades in between. It had always seemed like the perfect way to view the world, because it left little room for error. But now, I was realizing that perhaps the viewpoint has been one big error all along” (p.301)

I thought about this passage for quite some time. I am a VERY black-and-white thinker (just as P!) – I struggle when there is no “right” answer – and I’m pretty sure that comes from my perfectionist tendencies. I like things to be clean and not convoluted, and I see myself as a “failure” if I’m wrong. I can sometimes struggle with having an opinion on things or making a decision because there is no “right” answer. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized: how much am I missing when I’m only focused on these two colors!?! And how do I start to embrace the grays, and then purples, blues, and reds – how do I let go of that black and white thinking? How do you stop being so safe? I haven’t yet figured out the answer to this! But I do know that only thinking in dichotomies isn’t the way to go. Not everything is black/white or right/wrong. I tend to be an overly empathetic, emotional person, and sometimes I think it’s just easier on my heart if I only think in terms of black and white.

Anyway – I love books that make you think. Plus, I loved the descriptions of Italy and Rome, and Cat’s story. I enjoyed following her on her journey to start finding and loving herself, and I certainly thought about her and her cohorts after the book was finished J To me, that usually means it’s been a really good book when I start to miss the characters!!

Bottom line: this was a great read that felt like going on a soul-searching vacation with a good friend. I’m definitely looking forward to reading another Kristin Harmel novel! Let me know if you’ve read this one, or any of her others! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Answer me this: are you a black and white thinker too? How do you “get out of the box” and think in color? Any book club suggestions?


~ Brittany xo


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