Summers in Supino

ECW Press
Coletta McLean, Maria
Nonfiction
Active
04/06/2016
2013-06-05 12:43:37: Nomination was created
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Feature film
Comedy
Drama
Romance
Maria Coletta McLean is the bestselling author of My Father Came From Italy and editor of Mamma Mia! Good Italian Girls Talk Back. In 2002, she was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her contribution to the Canadian literary landscape. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
TBD. Book released in April, 2013. Maria Coletta McLean will be promoting this book throughout North America through spring and summer 2013.
Full of wonderfully vivid stories of Italy, Summers in Supino explores loss, grief, the restorative power of community, and the importance of family
Every summer Maria and her husband, Bob, went to their little house in the Italian village of Supino, and every year it was a new adventure. Only in Supino would you find a pizzeria in a sheep pasture, a seafood restaurant hidden in the woods, or an electrical cord draped from one balcony to the next so neighbours could share power. In Supino, they celebrate the first figs of the season; host watermelon, azalea, and artichoke festivals. Written with humour and heart, Summers in Supino is McLean’s memoir of these summers with Bob, as she becomes accustomed to the town her father grew up in and the peculiarities of the people who live there. Cousin Guido argues with neighbours over who can plant a grapevine and reap the harvest. Villagers debate whether one neighbour can trade the installation of some terra cotta tiles and the use of an (unbuilt) pizza oven for the land beneath Bob and Maria’s patio. Just as Maria comes to understand her connection to this wonderful place, Bob is diagnosed with cancer upon their return to Canada, and when it can’t be cured, Maria must prepare for the eventual loss
Maria, a mature mother who has just lost her father, and her husband Bob are the two main characters. Maria grew up in a large, traditional Italian family, full of laughter, love, and big meals. Bob quickly grows to enjoy Maria’s family and all of its traditions. After the death of her father, Maria struggles with the loss, but continues to take summer vacations in Italy with Bob, the town where her father was from. There, they spend time with friends and family members, including Guido, a vacation-hijacking cousin who insists on continuing to plan dinners and lunches for Maria and Bob, and Joe and Angela who watch their house while they are away. The family later is shocked when Bob is diagnosed with cancer, and Maria and the family must find a way to deal with his illness, its recurrence, and Bob’s eventual death. One of the most poignant aspects of the story is Bob’s desire to open a coffee bar in Supino — Bob’s summers in Supino lead him to a strong desire to set up a more permanent home in Italy, and in that sense, this is also a story of Bob becoming Italian.
: One of the major themes in this story is family and community. Maria learns to lean on her family after her father’s death, and during Bob’s illness and eventual death. Love is also a strong theme here: Maria’s love for her father and therefore her powerful connection to his village. Later, her love for Bob and all the years of memories they shared at Supino serve to strengthen her bond to the village as well.
: The beautiful Italian mountainside village of Supino, and the surrounding areas, would lend itself beautifully to film, with its abundance of bright colours and breathtaking scenery. The way Maria describes the community festivals and the big family meals, it’s easy to picture the warmth and feelings of love that would so easily come through on screen.
Women 18–34
Women 35–54
Seniors
Similar to the movie Eat Pray Love (particular the sections set in Italy). Both Maria and Elizabeth leave for Italy searching for something — in Maria’s case it is a way to come to terms with her father’s death. The two stories share beautiful scenery and imagery, and traditional Italian experiences such as big dinners with friends and family and accepting Italian customs, however strange they may seem.
The news of my father’s death came flying over the ocean
and sped down the autostrada until it reached the blue sign
pointing to Supino, his village. Here it slowed, as it climbed
the curves and hills, weaving through the beech trees that
arched over the roadway leading to the ancient church of
San Sebastiano. The melancholy news rang from the bell
tower. It arrived in wicker baskets along with the winter vegetables,
it unfolded from the January news, and was carried
in patched pockets jingling among the coins to be exchanged
at the market and the bakery and the tabacchi store. In the
January dusk, the wind carried his name beyond the village
and up the mountain path to Santa Serena, where the cows
stopped momentarily to listen before they lowered their
bony heads and continued grazing on the wild sage. High
above the mountaintops, his name, Loreto, put down roots
among the clouds.

Every activity had lost its appeal since my father’s death and
I’d been hesitant about returning to our little house in
Supino. We’d spent 10 sunny days there with my father last
August. But since he had died in the winter of 1992, I was
worried that our future visits to his village would remain in
the shadow of sorrow.
When I explained my concerns to Bob, he said Supino
was our village too, and we had a lifetime to make new memories
there. “As soon as we drive up the main street, you’ll get
excited to be back,” Bob said. “Supino’s always good for you.”
He called our neighbour, Joe, who lived across the street
on via condotto vecchio. Joe and his wife, Angela, looked after our
house when we weren’t there. I overheard Bob confirming
our plans: “Sì, July. Sì, Sunday. Sì, afternoon. Sì, rental car.”
At the end of the conversation, Bob’s voice grew uncertain
even though he kept repeating, “Sì, sì,” and finally, “Arrivederci.”
He put down the phone. “It’s all set.”
“Everything’s okay?”
“Sure. In fact, Joe has a surprise for you. He said to tell
you that he repainted the house.”
It took me a moment to realize that Joe meant our
house. I thought about our next-door neighbour Peppe.
He’d painted his house orange last summer. Said it was a
warm colour.
“Did he mention the colour?”
“He talked mostly about his son, Marco — he got a job at
a factory outside Supino on that road that runs parallel to
the autostrada.”
“He didn’t say he painted it orange, did he?”
“No. The government divided half the jobs among
workers from the South and half from the North. So a few
Northerners are boarding at the pensione just outside of the
village.”
“Do you think he repainted it white? Just to freshen it
up?”
“He didn’t say. Let me finish. When Joe found out how
much the workers were paying to stay at the pensione, he said
that Angela could feed them better for half the price and
. . . well . . . here’s the thing — the workers are boarding at
our house.”
“At our house? Bob, for heaven’s sake. What did you say?”
“What could I say?”
Bob was right. Whatever he said, Joe would have said,
“Don’t worry about it.” If there was one thing we’d learned
about owning a little house in my father’s village of Supino,
it was that it was always better to go along with the villagers
and their traditions. Joe could speak English and he looked
after our house when we weren’t there. “I keep an eye,” was
how Joe explained it; that meant he kept the house and its
contents and the tiny backyard the way he liked it. So what if
our furniture was often rearranged to suit his wife’s taste?
So what if odd bits of furnishings, like a wardrobe, a folding
table, and a stool with a broken leg, found their way into
our house? So what if our tiny back garden was full of Joe’s
brother’s plants?
The important thing was that when we called each summer
to say we were coming to Supino, our house was always spotless.
When we left, we simply gathered our bed sheets and
towels and left them for Angela, along with an envelope of
euros on the kitchen table, and when we returned everything
was washed and dried and folded in wooden crates that
Joe had gathered for us to use as a linen closet. If something
went wrong at the house, like the water pump wouldn’t
work, we told Joe and he fixed it or brought in someone who
could, and another envelope of euros would change hands.
Joe knew everything that was going on in the village, he
knew everyone who lived in the village, he carried the keys
for all four churches in Supino in his pocket — so our house
key was safe among them.
Summers in Supino is a wonderful book about love and loss, and learning that you can carry on through anything with the support of family and community, something that everyone can relate to. Everyone has suffered a loss and not known how to pick yourself up and cope. Maria learns that Supino can be a source of strength for her because of the community and all the memories it holds of her father, and now of Bob as well.
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