What motivates people to get on an airplane and fly ten hours through the night to face a new day in a strange land? The reasons may surprise you. A grandmother trying to reconnect with her cynical teenage granddaughter brings her to Venice to show her there’s still beauty in the world. A daughter and son-in-law bring their widowed mother to Florence, hoping to break through the grief that has enveloped her for a year. Best friends, one of whom is battling cancer, spend two weeks on the Isle of Capri, in an attempt to overcome the effects of chemotherapy and fear. A newly divorced 40-something woman goes to Rome to revisit the city she last saw on her honeymoon.
Soft Landings is a collection of seven short stories about American tourists who travel to Italy after experiencing a trauma in their lives. Their expectations are as varied as their backgrounds. They come searching for art, beauty, good food, perfect cappuccino, nice leather jackets and cats. What they don’t expect to find is the connection that each of them will make with Italian people. Like the hotel clerk who helps care for one of them when they get sick, or the illegal immigrant maid who becomes a trusted friend. Or the woman who runs the B&B, working day and night in order to bring her husband and son from India to Italy. Or the drop-dead gorgeous waiter who serves them breakfast each day. Ordinary people who extend extraordinary kindness.
The stories are linked to each other, yet each retains its ability to stand alone as a complete story. The first story, "Flight," reveals a little background of the travelers as they all get on the same airplane bound for Rome. From Rome, our characters go their separate ways, into their separate stories, but rejoin in the story titled "Pompeii." The final story of the series, "Home," lets the reader observe each character as they return to the States, unpack their suitcases and prepare to get on with their lives. A subtle yet profound shift has occurred in each of them, thanks to their time in Italy.
The collection of stories runs approximately 55,000 words.
I believe this is a timely subject and one that will find a willing audience. According to Forbes Traveler, approximately twenty million Americans have visited Italy in the last decade. It is the fifth most popular foreign vacation destination. As the world keeps getting smaller, the shared human experiences of love, joy, and hope are powerful themes that connect us all.