Coins in the Fountain [Judith Works]

With middle age looming, Judith Works decided it was time for a change. But after graduating from law school at the age of forty-seven, she still faced the question “What now?” Casual conversations about far-off travels with husband Glenn became a reality with the offer of a dream job at the United Nations in Rome, Italy.

Coins in the Fountain brings to life the challenges of acclimating to the beautiful and chaotic ancient city of Rome. Works shares her struggles of learning the arcane rules and folkways of the UN while Glenn begins his valiant effort to cook Italian-style, as they both endeavor to embrace la dolce vita. With an extraordinary count and countess for friends, dogs in the doctor’s office, snakes and unexploded bombs on the golf course, along with a sinking sailboat, the unexpected was always just around the corner.

Through wit, wry humor, and enticing descriptions of food and travel adventures, Works takes you on a journey into the heart of what it is truly like to live in the Eternal City. According to Roman lore, if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the famous Trevi Fountain, the gods will grant you a return trip. When it was time for them to leave, Works made that hopeful toss of a coin and her wish was granted.

My thoughts on the novel: Coins in the Fountain is a captivating memoir written by Judith Works who has clearly led quite a hectic, exciting life. Moving from the US to Italy to occupy an incredible job at the United Nations in Rome, she and her husband have to adjust to a new language, a new culture, a new way of life, a new “everything” basically. On top of that, you should know that at the time they started this adventure, it was near the end of the eighties, so forget all the practical technology, online banking and high speed Internet we now rely on and could not live without!

When she shares her many awkward or funny anecdotes that took place at the beginning of her journey, you won’t resist laughing a little. Experiencing the cultural shock helps you grow and learn about yourself. I know what I am talking about (let’s not even mention the impact of the reverse cultural shock). Coins in the Fountain made me reflect of my own experiences, so I liked this book a lot.

It is filled with interesting, informative and entertaining stories on a vast array of topics, from local traditions and cuisine to politics and history, religion and culture. It is meticulously researched and detailed. It makes for a vivid tale. The author really managed to encapsulate what expatriate life can be like (trips, friends, job, discoveries, bad moments and happy moments). I particularly enjoyed reading the bittersweet ending. You can really tell how hard it can be to leave behind your new heart home.

If you are unsure you’ll enjoy this kind of once-in-a-lifetime adventure, do read this book, it’ll help change your mind to give it a go.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥

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