Twenty-six-year-old Lavinia Lavinia is burdened by her unknown heritage—but her uncle Sal, who raised her in San Francisco, has always kept silent, refusing to reveal the devastating secret of her origin. And now, following the death of his wife, he’s left for Italy.
In the wake of her uncle’s departure, Lavinia has quit school. Now she works as a personal laundress to a diverse cast of San Francisco residents—people with stories as complicated as her own. As time progresses, through the sacred ritual of washing clothes—and with the help of a friend and her nurturing, flamenco dancing mother—Lavinia begins to recover memories of her past. Gradually, her gifts of receptivity multiply, and she communes with nature, finding messages from birds and the leaves of her garden’s fig tree. And when she recovers Raggedy, a beloved doll that accompanied her from Naples when she was four years old, she experiences a tangible connection to her own mother.
Even as Lavinia makes these discoveries, she is busy building new relationships—discovering healing dance with her lover, a barista in a North Beach coffee shop; learning to understand Time and forgiveness with an elderly client; and even getting to know her father, a man who has never been a part of her life. Poetic and poignant, The Laundress is a coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever sought to understand where they came from in order to figure out who they’re meant to become.
Barbara Sapienza is a new to me author. I must admit that when I started this book I was not a huge fan. I felt like the story was a bit jumpy and I did not understand exactly what was happening or how the synopsis related to what I was reading. While I was struggling, I decided to keep reading and give the book another chance. Maybe more pages and more details would help and maybe not and this would be a did not finish. And I must admit it did! As I continued to read the story and learn more about the life of Lavinia Lavinia and those in her life, I began to enjoy the story. For me, this story was about finding oneself. About discovering one’s past to discover one’s future. I very much enjoyed learning about Lavinia as she learned more about herself. I enjoyed learning about the relationships that she had built over the years and the ones that she built as she began to find herself. I felt for her as she experienced heartbreak and pain. Most of all I saw a little of me in her. I am so glad that I was turned on to this book…even if I did have a bit of a rough start.
About the Author
Barbara Sapienza, PhD, is a retired clinical psychologist and an alumna of San Francisco StateUniversity’s creative writing master’s program. She writes and paints, nourished by her spiritual practices of meditation, tai chi, and dance. Her family, friends, and grandchildren are her teachers. Her first novel, Anchor Out (She Writes Press, 2017) received an IPPY bronze medal for Best Regional Fiction, West Coast. Sapienza lives in Sausalito, CA, with her husband.