Jewels of San Fedele
by D. Ferraro and Patricia Florio

Serenity Books, LLC, 2017. ISBN 978-0-996-69923-5.
Reviewed by Ann McCauley
Posted on 06/13/2017


Jewels of San Fedele describes many a writer's dream: retreating from the demands of everyday life for a week on a hill in Italy surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. This anthology is the product of fourteen writers who traveled great distances to reflect, meditate and write every day in San Fedele, Italy.

Their week in San Fedele consisted of intense classwork, profound discussions and writing led by their instructors Kaylie Jones and Judy Mandel. Ferrara states, "At times it seemed more like therapy than editing," And for those of us who were not part of their fabulous week of writing, there is this gem of an anthology, Jewels of San Fedele.

This anthology includes essays, short fiction, and excerpts of memoirs, sketches, poetry and even sections of a novel created during the retreat by the fourteen writers. Editor Patricia Florio states, "San Fedele has given me a rich, spiritual experience. I hope many more will enjoy the blessings of a retreat there, and keep it, as I will, close to their hearts forever."

It is organized into four succinct sections; Part One - Italy, introduces the reader to the place and persons. Part Two - includes Fantasy, Fiction and Secrets, and Part Three - Family. Gathering fourteen women would guarantee a wealth of variety from simple to complicated family stories. Part Four - Observations which includes four memoirs and one short fiction, "Marilyn."

Editor Ferrara wrote "Marilyn," it is the kind of short fiction that could almost be a synopsis of a novel. So many layers and twists that the reader doesn't see 'the change' coming at the end of this very short story, less than two pages long! Contributor Vicki Mayk's "Family Dinner" is a section from her memoir; it's deep, yet written with wit and wisdom. It reminded me of an Anne Tyler novel, and that my friends, is a compliment - I love Anne Tyler's novels. Margaret McCaffrey's "Lightning Strikes," is a section of her Australian memoir. She relates a conversation with her brother about the edgy relationship between her and their father. I loved the final sentences: "...knowing all along—but seeing for the first time—that I had been given the right father. And he, the right daughter." The power of those two sentences still astounds me. Contributor Joanne Biles of Connecticut writes, "The recent trip to Italy...reawakened my somewhat dormant creativity. The light entered my being and filled my heart. It was bliss." Her memoir section, "Shadowlands 1986," was poignant and heart-breaking.

Almost all the passages of this anthology are memorable and powerful. Jewels of San Fedele is one of those rare books that stay with the reader long after closing the last page of the book.

The editors of this anthology, D. Ferraro and Patricia Florio, are talented writers who hold Masters in Creative Writing Degrees and have many years of writing experience and success.

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