When we first open the pages of Taking Tuscany by Renee Riva, it is the year 1972 and we find 14-year-old Angelina Juliana, also known as A. J., living in Tuscany with her family. Originally from Idaho, A. J. is not only struggling with all the same things that come with being a teenager, but she also faces the struggles in being a foreigner in what is still a somewhat strange land. Being an American with a fair complexion and blonde hair makes it very difficult to just fit into the crowd. Add in the challenges of learning a new language and not being able to just engage in heartfelt conversations with your friends in your native tongue, and you have a challenge.
A. J. desperately misses the USA and all that it stands for--her dog Sailor, soul mate Danny, and all of her friends. She is still determined that on her eighteenth birthday, she will once again return to her hometown and cabin on Indian Lake. Now if you have had the opportunity to read the earlier adventures of A. J. in Saving
Sailor, it will come as no surprise that she meets these challenges with the infamous Degulio sense of humor, but even more importantly her strong family bonds and ability to find comfort in God's creatures. Although she misses her beloved Sailor, A. J. fords a special connection with a neighbor's horse, Caesar. On rides with Caesar through the surrounding pastures, another special relationship is about to be brought into Angelina's life--the friendship with Sister Aggie and the other nuns at the local convent. Can a nun provide the same sense of camaraderie and closeness that A. J. so desperately misses in being so far from Danny?
As happens with so many of us, A. J. spends an incredible amount of her time and energy mourning the things she has lost in having to move with her family to Tuscany. However, when a catastrophe strikes her family, she is once again reminded of the many blessings that surround her. When asked by her parents to accompany her aging and somewhat senile grandmother on a pilgrimage to the abbey that houses a statue of Little Sainte Foy, it does not take long for A. J.'s dread to be replaced with pride in her family heritage, a joy in sharing these somewhat crazy times with her grandmother, and a greater sense of belonging.
To truly share in the adventures of A. J. Delugio's life and innermost thoughts, pick up your own copy of Taking
Tuscany by Renee Riva. The words on the page will come alive as if A. J. were right in front of you as the story is shared with the candor and speech of a 14-year-old girl just as she would say it.
My own teenager's response was simply this: "Are there any more books in this series, Mom? I just have to find out what happens to A. J. Does she go back to America? Maybe she falls in love with Danny after all and they will both get to keep Sailor."