In this arresting first novel about love and liberation, Italy is not just a place of popes and piazzas, but a cauldron of heady politics and equally heated passions.
At its center is Catherine Davidson, a young American who gets caught up in the excitement of an Eternal City on edge: women are taking to the streets to demand their rights, homegrown terrorists kneecapping their hapless targets, poor immigrants swelling the city's underbelly. Determined not to be a bystander to history nor to let her southern upbringing sabotage her newfound independence, Catherine nonetheless gets in over her head.
Viewed with a sympathetic yet sharp eye by a third-person narrator, Catherine wrestles with the fact that her personal behavior doesn't dovetail with her political beliefs and with the failure to live up to the expectations of others. While she revels in two love affairs, one with an open-minded Roman and the other with a refugee from Eritrea, they each expose her insecurities and jealousies.
It is an unlikely figure from Catherine's past, however, who resets the course of her life: her former stepmother, a Dane who has returned to Europe after a decade in the South. Despite having ill-treated this woman throughout the marriage, Catherine finds common ground and new respect for her - so much so that she makes a momentous decision.