For logistics expert Lily Turner life is about getting from A to B, and the less meddling within the supply chain the better. After all, her only effort to do so has been an abject failure: Lily remains childless after years of trying to conceive. Even adoption has proven a hopeless avenue.
Defeated by her body, Lily throws herself into an area of her life that can be readily managed, putting in long hours at the office to ensure that packet cake mixes make their way into households around the world. The goal? The achievement of domestic bliss in a minimum of time, fuss and ingredients.
Indulgence, even the packet-mix kind, has for years been a foreign concept to Lily, who is all about gastronomic abstinence and emotional austerity. But passion and impulsiveness aren’t as far away as they might seem: as Lily searches around in her wardrobe, pragmatically considering a birthday gifts of golf cleats for her husband, she comes across something that derails her prim, matter-of-fact outlook. Her husband has a lover in Italy—and, to make the betrayal even more unforgiveable, a child as well.
A bottle of wine and a spontaneously purchased plane ticket later, Lily is on her way to Tuscany to confront her husband and his secret family. But Tuscany is famously the land of existential epiphany, where uptight suited types learn to get by without their Blackberrys and where the unassailable sunshine, the lushly rolling fields, and the ever-ready stovetop form a heady confection that necessarily results in a new-found joie de vivre.
Needless to say, Lily’s tough, corporate orientation is a poor match for these bucolic charms: urged on by a collective of gossipy, match-making widows, beguiled by the temptations of sweet Tuscan cantucci and inspired by the large-eyed wonder of her husband’s emotionally needy daughter, Lily slowly discards the brusque, abstemious trappings of her former life, finding instead satiety in back-to-basics living, and in particular in the honest work of baking. Despite years of training in objectively assessing the quickest, easiest path for a package to take, Lily learns that it’s the process less than the outcome that matters.
For the most part, the novel trots along well-worn but happily revisited ground, with Lynch leveraging the Tuscan setting to its fullest extent, and hamming up the antics of her widows’ cabal as well as Lily’s culinary ineptness to hilarious effect. Unfortunately, the book groans under thematic weightiness, with its already boldly drawn concepts of self-renaissance and simplicity growing even more palpable as the denouement approaches, resulting in an ending that feels somehow simultaneously inevitable and bizarrely inexplicable.
Hallmark-esque conclusion and title notwithstanding, Dolci di Love is more bitter-sweet than saccharine, and there’s an undercurrent of loss and wistfulness that affords a satisfying depth to what might otherwise be passed off as another light-hearted romp through the appealing idyll of Tuscany.