Summers in Supino: Becoming Italian is Maria Coletta McLean’s second book about Italy, the first being her excellent and touching memoir My Father Came From Italy, which dealt with her relationship with her father as they returned to his hometown of Supino – a town in the Lazio province. Summers in Supino works as My Father‘s sequel- in it, McLean writes of her attachment to Supino and how she and her husband split their time between Italy and their native Canada. McLean’s book is bursting with characters that are almost cinematic in their charm and effusive (though sometimes oppressive) affection. Because she allows for darker moments in her story to take center stage, Summers in Supino remains a highly enjoyable and effective read.
The overriding theme of the book seems to be friendship; the author forges relationships with the village locals who take care of her home when she’s in Canada, but these friendships aren’t merely cordial or polite acquaintanceships – these people insert themselves into McLean’s and her husband’s lives, even if it’s not solicited; every part of their lives is micro managed by one well-meaning neighbor or another – if it’s not their electrics, it’s their patio; if it’s not their garden, it’s their fledgling business – boundaries seems to be a foreign concept to the villagers of Supino.
And while this book isn’t necessarily all that different from the deluge of living-in-Italy-memoirs, McLean’s personal story does make it somewhat distinct. Her connection to the land is interesting because of her father’s history. Also unlike a lot of the other Italy memoirs, McLean’s tale takes a more urgent tone when she writes of her husband’s health issues – she’s unflinching when she recounts his diagnosis and his treatments, as well as the reactions of the locals who have come to embrace the couple as one of their own.
As expected McLean’s book has great passages that detail the beauty of her surroundings, and she’s also good at describing food (a food memoir would be a viable option for a new project for the writer). She doesn’t necessarily break any grounds with Summers in Supino, but it’s a comfortable book that’s a great companion for a long plane ride or an idyllic day at the beach.