Rips, a lawyer from the Midwest of America, appears to look for nothing more than what he can see through the steam rising from his coffee cup when seated at an outdoor café table. The result is an uneven series of occasionally stunning vignettes of the curious people who pass by his field of vision. It is an unlikely writing style for an American in Italy, more reminiscent of a distanced Victorian observer of another culture than an exuberant Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun or the freshness of Annie Hawes in Extra Virgin.
Rips' own personality, in all its neuroses, is the backbone to the daily doodles that introduce the reader to the village. The elegant café owner Dina Guidi, the inbred Mezzadonna family, the blind boot-maker and the titled Pasquale with a penchant for cars and for smelling feet are created with varying detail.
The style veers toward a movie script outline where characters have great potential and all will be revealed before the camera. This first-time author, who would be a study in eccentricity in his own right, is on the right path when he blends observation with his version of a morality tale. --Kathleen Buckley