Synopses & Reviews
Cooley’s (Thirty Three Swoons) touching memoir recounts a year living in the rural Italian village of Castiglione del Terziere a castle town where—in the off season—there are only a dozen or so residents. Cooley and her husband Antonio both fiction writers and translators take a leisurely approach to country living. Though the book begins as a love letter to Castiglione it turns into an introspective family memoir. Cooley meditates on her parents’ deteriorating health and contemplates the deaths of friends—a “rabbit hole of loss”—that preceded her move to Italy. Once in Italy she visits the Costa Concordia shipwreck gets to know the other women in town and becomes deeply familiar with the cats of Castiglione. In the midst of tragedy Cooley finds solace in literature and poetry quoting poets such as Zbigniew Herbert T.S. Eliot Walt Whitman and Philip Larkin. Her devotion to her mother is intertwined with her devotion to literature. As her mother slowly goes blind their shared love of reading or listening to books unites them. Like the ill fated Costa Concordia Cooley must learn to “steer amidst obstacles” and though her passage is not always smooth it is instructive and humanizing. (May) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
Having lost eight friends in ten years, Cooley retreats to a tiny medieval village in Italy with her husband. There, in a rural paradise where bumblebees nest in the ancient cemetery and stray cats curl up on her bed, she examines a question both easily evaded and unavoidable: mortality. How do we grieve? How do we go on drinking our morning coffee, loving our life partners, stumbling though a world of such confusing, exquisite beauty?
Linking the essays is Cooley's escalating understanding of another loss on the way, that of her ailing mother back in the States. Blind since Cooley's childhood, her mother relies on dry wit to ward off grief and pity. There seems no way for the two of them to discuss her impending death. But somehow, by the end, Cooley finds the words, each one graceful and wrenching.
Part memoir, part loving goodbye to an unconventional parent, Guesswork transforms a year in a pastoral hill town into a fierce examination of life, love, death, and, ultimately, release.