With its rolling hills, grapevines and ancient farmhouses, Tuscany provides a taste of Old World rural life that has all too quickly vanished elsewhere. Even so, the region's increased popularity has led to land and housing developments that have already begun diminishing Tuscany's charms. Jeff Shapiro's debut novel, "Renato's Luck," focuses on the picturesque Tuscan village of Sant'Angelo D'Asso, which, in the novel, has recently become endangered by government plans to build a dam, a construction that would soon leave most of the 7th century village under water.
Renato Tizzoni, employed by the town's waterworks company, has lost his taste for life--and the fate of Sant'Angelo is only part of the problem. His 17-year-old daughter is in love with a boy he disapproves of. His old friend, Signor Vezzosi, a father-figure to Renato, has recently died. Renato finds himself unable even to enjoy lovemaking with his wife. But most disconcerting to Renato is that he has lost the delight he once took in all of life's simple pleasures, and that realization, that "empty chill chased away his closeness to God, made his wife's perfume disappear from beneath his nose, left him lonely and sad."
Renato's problem may be viewed as symptomatic of a classic midlife crisis. He is about to turn 40; his daughter is growing up; his romance with his wife has cooled; and his future generally seems devoid of exciting promise. And yet, what makes Shapiro's novel transcend this often trendy topic is the depth of scrutiny with which Renato is endowed. Though depicted as a "simple" man, Renato has a remarkable intuition and a special capacity to connect with others. Despite his lack of formal education, Renato is a thinker.