Rebecca Serle Met Her Mom’s Old Boyfriend, Then Wrote a Best Seller

MOMMY What would you give to be able to spend time with your mother as a young woman, before life’s obligations and turning points landed with a thud on her shoulders? In “One Italian Summer,” now in its fourth week on the hardcover fiction list, Rebecca Serle immerses her protagonist in this fantasy. The circumstances are bittersweet for Katy Silver, who proceeds with a long-planned vacation to the Amalfi Coast after Carol, her mother and her intended traveling companion, dies of cancer. There, in the lobby of her hotel in Positano, she runs into a 30-year-old incarnation of Carol.

Serle’s mother is very much alive; in fact, Ranjana Serle recently surprised her daughter in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., at the last stop on her book tour. But “One Italian Summer” has a back story that’s partially grounded in reality, Serle explained in a phone interview. “In the summer of 2019, I went to Rome and then Positano with my mom. She had spent time there after her second year of college; she had fallen in love and had this magical summer. She had always, always talked about this time.”

While they were traveling, the Serles tracked down Remo Pizotti, Ranjana’s long-ago Italian boyfriend, and arranged to meet him at the Trevi Fountain. “They recognized each other immediately, which was so sweet,” Serle said. “They saw each other and embraced and he brought my mother this charm that said ‘love’ on it that she had given him almost 50 years beforehand.” With the help of Google Translate, the trio chatted at a coffee shop that was once the bar where Ranjana and Remo first crossed paths.

Serle explained that her parents have been married for 40 years, and that her father endorsed this reunion even though it took place on his birthday. When she and her mother de ella said goodbye to Pizotti at a bus stop, Serle glanced back and noticed him watching Ranjana walk away. “It was very sweet and also a bit sad,” she said. “It got me thinking about the women our mothers are before we meet them. There are moments in life if you’re a writer where the moment is just shrieking at you to pay attention. I knew I wanted to tell a mother-daughter story and this one sort of laid itself out for me.” (No spoilers, but Katy and Carol spend time with a heartthrob named Remo.)

In another meta-twist, the audio version of “One Italian Summer” is read by Lauren Graham, whose “Gilmore Girls” character, Lorelai, Serle quotes in her epigraph. The passage includes this sage maternal advice: “Get a window seat, honey, ’cause there’s so much to see.”

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