I just finished this book — weeping — on a flight from Denver to Seattle. It’s not the only time I cried while reading this story of a 40-something mom who moved her family from Los Angeles to a small town in Italy in order to save her marriage. Nope, I freely shed tears, laughed, reflected and related while reading Halfway to Each Other (Guideposts), which is available in hardcover now, and in paperback next month.
Susan Pohlman and her husband Tim were thisclose to divorce (having visited attorneys and all), when they made the radical decision to sell their house in California and move halfway across the world with their children, then 11 and 14. Susan did so not only in a last-ditch effort to reconnect with her husband on foreign soil, but also to introduce her kids to a simpler way of life (sans American materialism) in the Italian coastal town of Nervi.
Any parent with tween-age or teen-age children, whose lives revolve around work, carpools, computers and commitments, can likely relate to the appeal of giving it all up to focus on the family without the distractions of “typical” over-scheduled everyday life.
With brutal honesty (and loads of humor), Susan shares with readers in chronological vignettes how she and her husband slowly fell in love again through funny travel mishaps, walks on the beach and relaxing mornings savoring cappuccino. This transformation in their relationship — and their improved bonds as a family on the whole — certainly didn’t happen overnight.
In fact, their year in Italy brought plenty of anxiety, fear and loneliness — not only were the Pohlmans figuring out how to simply spend time together (and enjoy it) after two decades of marriage, but they had to navigate daily life in a foreign country in which they couldn’t speak the language. At all.
My favorite tales involved figuring out the local grocery store (and getting the stink eye from the local matrons for not donning a plastic glove to touch the produce — who knew?), deciphering public transportation, trying to communicate with their neighbors, instructing an Italian hairdresser how to best highlight with blond streaks (didn’t end so well) and enrolling their kids in a local international school. I loved hearing about leisurely walks on the beach, a daily cappuccino routine and travels to Switzerland. The stories are heartwarming and ultimately triumphant.
Truly, I did not want this book to end. Susan tells her family’s tale with candor and self-deprecation; she reveals conversations with her husband that are absolutely shocking to me (at first, I was so surprised they’d stayed married that long, they were so bitter toward one another). After finishing the memoir, I’m frankly so curious to know what her life back in the United States is like these days — are lessons learned in Italy still being applied to life in busy, hectic America? (Trust me, I’ve poured over her website, and I’m now stalking following her on Twitter.)
Note that this book is published by Guideposts, a company that produces “inspirational” books, booklets and magazines. If you’re bothered by references to God or Biblical scripture, than this book isn’t for you. I’m not heavy into religious doctrine, but still enjoyed it immensely. (Susan’s talks with God made sense in context.)
I heartily recommend this book to anyone contemplating a long-term move to Italy, with or without children. I think it’s also enlightening for anyone who might be able to relate to a marriage gone stale, who might be in a union that needs some shaking up in order to ultimately last in the long run. With mouthwatering descriptions of vine-ripened tomatoes, savory focaccia and creamy gelato, Halfway to Each Other will, if anything, tantalize your taste buds and inspire you to book a flight to the source of some amazing food — and museums and villages and a slow-paced way of life — in Italy.