by Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk
“A wistful story about the difficult decisions people must make in both love and war, Ciao Bella is drenched in Italian sunshine. The authors have penned a sweet, nostalgic story about how good people struggle to do the right thing, even when there are no good choices at all.” –Historical Novels Review
For Graziella, the daughter of a Canadian botanist, the quiet, cultured life she lived in Venice with her musician husband, Ugo, was everything she could’ve desired. But when Italy allied with Nazi Germany in 1940, her world changed forever. Ugo, trading his violin for a gun, joined the Resistance, while Graziella, now an “enemy alien,” was forced to seek refuge at his family’s farm in the nearby Euganean Hills. Having inherited her father’s gift for plants, she became both midwife and nursemaid to Ugo’s family. Her time in the Hills was not a happy one, not only because of the fear of bombing raids and Nazi reprisals but also because Ugo’s father and sisters were openly hostile to his choice of a foreigner as a wife. “Just until the war is over,” Ugo had promised, but it has been months since the Germans retreated, and no one has seen him since.
Just as she despairs she will be trapped forever with Ugo’s ungrateful family, along comes Frank, an American soldier waiting for the ship that will take him back home. As the summer unfolds, Frank begins to fill the void Ugo has left behind and Graziella embraces this unexpected chance at being happy again. But as tempting as it is to leave behind this war-torn country and her painful memories for a new life in America, can she go without learning her husband’s fate? And as much as Frank has brought joy back into everyone’s shell-shocked lives, just how much does she really know about him?
With quiet grace and humor, Ciao Bella explores the possibilities of love and redemption in the wake of war, showing that some of the hardest decisions come only after the fighting has stopped.