Uneasy about the impending responsibilities of adulthood, July can’t figure out where she wants her life to go. When romance ignites with Toby, a middle-aged man shell-shocked by the dissolution of his family, July clings to the idea that a future with Toby might save her from the decisions of post-university life. In an attempt to celebrate his divorce and new relationship, Toby takes July on a winter trip to Florence, Italy, where the vacation romance devolves into ruminations on disappointment, failure, and the future. The appearance of enigmatic, charming Massimo awakens in July the excitement of possibility and chance, but mires her further in her doubts. Meanwhile, Toby’s ex-wife remarries almost immediately, sending him into a tailspin. A wry, often humorous novel about loss, discovery, and family, A Valediction examines the way we delude ourselves — and the repercussions that result.
Friedman’s bittersweet novel eloquently explores the complexities of relationships and human desire. Despite his desolation following the end of his 15-year marriage, Toby tries to rebound from loneliness—and at the same time gives his ex-wife a what-for—by dating the much-younger July. July, who has no idea what she wants to do after graduation, lets Toby whisk her away to Florence in celebration of his divorce and the holidays. But the trip is not at all the romantic getaway that was promised, despite a ton of gelato. Toby’s past haunts him and he becomes aloof and bitter, especially when he learns his ex-wife is getting married again. Meanwhile, July’s confusion and indecision toward Toby become more persistent when she meets the charming and young Italian Massimo. Although Toby and July’s relationship is ultimately doomed, both try to hold on rather than face uncertainty, which proves to be disastrous in the slightly rushed ending chapters. The gist of this story is by no means new, but Friedman’s strong writing makes this a novel worth reading. The story gracefully moves between descriptions of the beauty and people of Florence, the wonders of fine foods, and the uncertainty and pain of heartbreak. (BookLife)