DREAMING SOPHIA is a nice introduction to Italian life and culture. This story has been told in print and on film, but each generation must hear this same alluring European adventure a different way and in an updated voice.
Author Melissa Muldoon enters the sweepstakes for this generation’s entry with the tale of a young woman whose Italy-loving parents die on a trip to their idyll, and for whom salvation is to be found in following their footsteps. Muldoon deftly rolls modern Italian icons such as actors Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni with more ancient luminaries, including poet Dante Alighieri and Renaissance genius Michelangelo (to name a few), in a way that broad brushes over a lot of history, but ties these disparate players together into a single tasty box of cultural cannolis.
Somewhat washed out by her parents’ sudden and tragic death, Sophia, named by her mother after “La Loren,” is having a hard time getting on track. But her mother’s and father’s memory, and the things they’ve left behind, prove irresistible in lifting her from Sonoma, California, across a continent and an ocean, to art school in Florence for serious training as a painter.
Gently guiding the young woman toward her proper destiny are a series of muses from Italian history who break into her daydreams with counsel or an artistic discussion. The device is engaging, although the characters do not always reveal that much about themselves or what they stand for in the story Muldoon is imparting.
DREAMING SOPHIA is not a deep dive into a country with artistic traditions and the long memory of an ancient land. But it’s not shallow, either. There are enough primary and secondary figures of import introduced to tempt and occupy a budding Italophile for a few years. From there, the road leads where it may.
DREAMING SOPHIA is not edgy or racy, or experimental but it hits the beats when they’re supposed to be hit, it satisfies and even uplifts. It is relentlessly optimistic, but its target audience, young women, tend to be the same way.
~Stephen Siciliano for IndieReader