Christina Lynch’s Letter to Librarians (3/14/23)

Christina Lynch’s SALLY BRADY’S ITALIAN ADVENTURE will capture readers’ hearts from the start with her effervescent, loveable, and witty main character, Sally Brady, as she leaves behind her party girl life to save her friends and find her way home as war engulfs Europe.

Christina Lynch has joined us with a letter to librarians detailing her inspiration for the book and the role that libraries played.

SALLY BRADY’S ITALIAN ADVENTURE is available for download on Edelweiss here. LibraryReads votes due by May 1st.

Italy From Within (a Book)

I have always felt at home in libraries, and I feel like libraries welcome me as a kindred spirit. There’s something comforting about vast amounts of human knowledge being right there, neatly arranged, no electricity or internet connection needed. You don’t need a Ouija board to talk to the dead, after all. All you have to do is read the messages they’ve left us between the covers of books… which is how I was lucky enough to “meet” one American journalist, thanks to several generations of librarians overlooking his lack of popularity with readers.

My original plan for writing SALLY BRADY’S ITALIAN ADVENTURE was to return to Italy in the fall of 2020 and visit local libraries and archives. The pandemic upended those plans, and I spent most of 2020 and all of 2021 in my own personal library instead. Fortunately, I love my library—it’s a freestanding former workshop on my property that houses about 5,000 volumes organized by subject (nonfiction) and last name (fiction), and has a view of a beautiful canyon. There’s a futon where I can squeeze in between my two dogs to read, and an antique writing desk with a persnickety lamp that goes on and off at inconvenient moments. I have accumulated many, many books on Italy. Although I missed the smell and feel of Italian biblioteche, and the restaurants around them, I coped.

SALLY BRADY’S ITALIAN ADVENTURE is set in Hollywood, Iowa, St. Moritz, Rome, and Tuscany during the 1930s and 1940s. Every page required research into the time period, from newspapers and oral histories to biographies and memoirs of those who lived through the war. My favorite moment in the research process came when I was reading Teddy Getty Gaston’s memoir, ALONE TOGETHER. She mentioned being interned at the onset of the war in a hotel in Siena with five American journalists, and named them. I discovered one of them—Richard Massock– published a book in 1943 about his time in Italy covering the lead up to war, but ITALY FROM WITHIN was long out of print. I despaired of finding a copy, even on the online rare book sites. Then some little voice in my head told me to check the library at the small, rural community college where I teach. It was the longshot of all longshots, but I couldn’t believe my eyes—they had a copy! I went to the stacks and there it was—and it had never been checked out! Our head librarian was as excited and amazed as I was. She told me she had no idea how the book had survived hundreds of purges and culls over the years as the college’s library evolved and was updated. She “decommissioned” it and gave it to me to keep. As I took the book in my hands, it felt like it had been waiting for me all along, sitting quietly, unnoticed on the shelves as the world and everything around it changed, year after year after year. I opened the pages and Massock’s voice came instantly alive: “The poet and the journalist shifted their chairs a bit to make another place at their small table and beckoned to me as I entered the crowded restaurant near the Piazza di Spagna.” With those words, I stepped back in time and joined him at that table. 

Massock’s perspective on Italy under Mussolini was central to building the character of Lapo, and the people Sally meets on her adventures. Massock himself lives on, I like to think, through his book (safe on my shelf!) and now through my novel, thanks to the librarians who safeguarded his words as they waited seventy-seven years for one fascinated reader to find them.

–Christina Lynch

SALLY BRADY’S ITALIAN ADVENTURE by Christina Lynch; 9781250286154; 6/13/23

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