What causes picture-perfect suburban Oakwood residents, MacKenzie, Roxie, Sara, and Georgia to desert their therapist fly off to Florence? Answer: A romantic Italian movie that prompts Roxie to ask: “If Italy is so healing and therapeoutic what are we doing in Ohio?”
Even Sara, the most duty-bound of the group, finally joins the pact they dub “The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood,” and they all find themselves in Florence a week later. As they feel themselves embraced by the entire province of Tuscany, each woman falls and becomes entangled in experiences she could never have foretold. Not only do they find the fascinating Italian men that Georgia promised, but new sides to themselves and each other.
Against the glittering background of Florence, their dramas play out:
MacKenzie returns to her student days as an art historian, discarding her identity as the controlling Oakwood charity patron and society hostess. Renewing her acquaintance with the David, she vows to let herself be sculpted rather than trying to sculpt others. MacKenzie finds not only a new talent, but a new man who appreciates it, just as her husband decides to re-enter her life.
Roxie, who has always approached life as a circus, is drawn unwillingly into a passionate romance with a gorgeous Italian professor, Stefano. Her physical response to Stefano taps into lost memories, causing her to literally run from him. Roxie, normally a colorful Cubana, senses danger in visions and smells that resurface of a rotting summerhouse behind her Florida home. With his nurturing and passionate love, Stefano helps her to face the “broken piece” inside her.
Sara, a Xanax addict, unveils part of her that no one but her instructors knows. She is an extraordinarily talented concert violinist. Normally trapped in the demanding life of an ob-gyn (scripted for her by her Vietnamese immigrant parents), she is temporarily freed. She performs for others for the first time, and experiences unprecedented joy. She also falls in love unexpectedly with a man who is not only a famous Chinese actor, but has a mysterious side business. Her defense of him gives her the courage to loose the vice-like hold of her parents and step into her own script.
Georgia, a grieving widow, processes her life without Ben and without her violin career that ended early because of arthritis. Looking for a new passion in life, she finds that satisfaction comes to her in “giving back” to those around her the lessons and knowledge she has learned through her successes and mistakes in La Dolce Vita. Just as her perspective is changing, she reunites with her first love, Arturo, and must make a decision about the direction of her future life.
Though ages have passed since the rebirth called the Renaissance, Florence still inspires change by breathing out its creative mix of energy, beauty, and courage. Where Michelangelo “set free” the David by sculpting a block of marble, each “crazy lady” finds her exterior “Oakwood” self burnished away by new experiences, revealing a new self. This burnishing is not a gentle process, but exuberant Italians help them through it with their all-embracing agape, or unconditional love. Though they do not know it, each of them hungers for agape’s healing power. They discover in it a balm that binds them together and puts them on the road to recovery, the road that is “The Only Way to Paradise.”
Well, the book description pretty much says it all. Not much left for me to say. LOL
I loved this book, but it took me quite a while to retain the names of the women and keep them all straight. I don’t think it was anything the author did, though. I was reading this on my Kindle, and I’ve noticed before that it’s harder to keep up with the details of the story when I’m reading an ebook.
There is a lot going on in this book. Four separate stories and four almost-strangers learning about themselves and each other during a month in Italy. Each women embraces the artist inside while discovering the love around them. They bask in the agape love of the Italians and their fellow “Crazy Ladies”, and eventually discover a little romantic love, as well. This novel is set to be the first of four and I can’t wait to read more to see what happens next. There were several loose ends that I want to see wrapped up.
I loved the language of this book. One thing I love about the Kindle is that I can mark passages. In some books, I don’t mark any, even if I enjoy the book. This is one of those books, though, that’s full of wisdom and beautiful words that you want to store in your heart to carry around and pull out when you’re having a less-than-wonderful day.
“That’s life, MacKenzie. We can’t go back, only forward. And we can’t afford to waste the past. The best we can do is reframe it. We only have so many years on this earth. They all count.”
“True artists must be determined not to shy away from what they might find. She remembered a quote from Nietzche, Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it: Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.“
“Remember the Duomo,” he said. “Bruneschelli just proceeded brick by brick. he never knew what he would do from on day to the next. He worked in faith, and according to the legend he never doubted that the next step to creating the world’s first dome would be given to him in the moment that he needed it. He never saw the end from the beginning. None of us do.”
About this book
Title: The Only Way to Paradise
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Publisher: O.W. Press
Release date: June 6, 2011
Where I got the book: I received this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 stars This is a great book, but I think it will appeal more to women for the most part, because it’s a pretty emotional book.