Book Reading & Signing


The Train to Orvieto, set in Orvieto, Florence, and Milan, Italy, and in the heartland of America, is an intimate story of love, loss, betrayal, and reconciliation that unfolds against an historical background of war and dramatic social change. It is a story enacted by fascinating three-dimensional characters and told by one of them, Fina, a history teacher who warns the reader, "The truth never mattered." It is a story depicting the clash of opposites―the desire for union with another and the need for solitude; loyalty and betrayal; change and tradition; the fatalism of rural Italy and the sense of familial and social duty, as against one's obligations to oneself―and it explores the classic theme of how the consequences of decisions made in youth carry through the remainder of one's life. The Train to Orvieto invites us to consider how much we re able to understand the truths of our own lives and what it costs to accept them.

The novel consists of the three parts. The first part concerns Willa, her adventurous mother; the second Losine, Willa’s elegant lover; and the third, Fina herself. Together, they compose a cross-cultural family saga of the marriage of Willa, a passionate artist from Ohio, and Gabriel, her possessive husband; and of Fina, a daughter who stands at the center of questions about who we are, what we can know of one another, and whether we can forgive.

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Whether writing or painting, among her principal interests are Italian language and culture, interests that grew out of family history and her travels in Italy. She's especially attracted to the works of Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, and Elena Ferrante and to the philosophical-mythological-literary investigations of Roberto Calasso. 

She enjoys the blank canvas as much as the blank page. Both are so full of possibility and promise. For her, painting and writing are mutually supportive. When a problem develops in one medium, she works in another. These changes in focus often lead to new and surprising perspectives. Such insights, she believes, are a reflection of the Art in art.

A California native, Rebecca J. Novelli went to school and worked in Southern California as a writer, editor and educator. She holds a BA in English from Pomona College, an MA in Education from Claremont Graduate University, and an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University (Los Angeles). She was also a member of Jim Krusoe's Advanced Fiction Workshop in Santa Monica, California. She now lives in Seattle.

Event date: 
Friday, June 9, 2017 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
1811 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109-2850