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  • Writer's pictureJoan Fernandez

In the Shadow of the Apennines

By Kimberly Sullivan

Women helping women when past bursts to life in the present

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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