A Best Book of the Year ―BookPage
A Must-Read ―The New York Post and The Christian Science Monitor
“A story of love, loss, and the enduring power of hope. I was transfixed from page one.” ―Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept
From the bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith’s Return to Valetto tells of a nearly abandoned Italian village, the family that stayed, and long-buried secrets from World War II.
On a hilltop in Umbria sits Valetto. Once a thriving village that survived centuries of earthquakes and landslides and became a hub of resistance and refuge during World War II, it has since been nearly abandoned, as residents sought better lives elsewhere. Only ten remain, including the widows Serafino—three eccentric sisters and their steely centenarian mother—who live quietly in their medieval villa. Then their nephew and grandson, Hugh, a historian, returns.
But someone else has arrived before him, laying claim to the cottage where Hugh spent his childhood summers. The unwelcome guest is the captivating and no-nonsense Elisa Tomassi, who asserts that the family patriarch, Aldo Seraﬁno, a resistance fighter whom her own family harbored, gave the cottage to them in gratitude. But like so many threads of history, this revelation unravels a secret—a betrayal, a disappearance, and an unspeakable act of violence—that has affected Valetto across generations. Who will answer for the crimes of the past?
Dominic Smith’s Return to Valetto is a riveting journey into one family’s dark past, a page-turning excavation of the ruins of history, and a probing look at our commitment to justice in a fragile world. It is also a deeply human and transporting testament to the possibility of love and understanding across gaps of all kinds—even time.
About the Author
Dominic Smith is the author of six novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, which was a New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and was named a best book of the year by Slate, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Kirkus Reviews. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Australian, among other publications. He grew up in Sydney, Australia, and now lives in Seattle, Washington.
“[A] haunting novel . . . Themes of loss and the burden of history are seasoned with grace and humor.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“Veteran novelist Smith deftly weaves multiple themes of abandonment and loss throughout a compelling narrative studded with gorgeous descriptions of the Italian landscape and sharp character sketches . . . More fine work from a gifted storyteller: engrossing, well written, and affecting.”
“[Smith] is a master of his trade who has executed a flawless novel that satisfies on all counts. . . . A richly rewarding book that is imbued with a sense of timelessness. It’s an outright pleasure to read.”
—Stephenie Harrison, BookPage (starred review)
“[Smith] brings Valetto to life with a gift for symmetry and a dash of humor . . . This accomplished novel offers engaging characterization paired with echoes of the past that resound in the present.”
—Bethany Latham, Booklist
“An intriguing saga of wartime promises and trauma . . . This intelligent family drama will keep readers turning the pages.”
“[A] story about grief and renewal . . . with real revelations.”
—Peter Kenneally, The Sydney Morning Herald
“An engaging story about family loyalties, and about the lasting power of long-buried secrets from World War II.”
—Ann Skea, The Newtown Review of Books
“I was completely charmed and transported by Return to Valetto, Dominic Smith’s smart, engaging novel about the secrets held within a dying Italian village. This terriﬁc book, about loss and family and the weight of history, is probably as close as I’ll ever get to buying one of those picturesque Italian villas, and surely a wiser investment.”
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and The Angel of Rome
“Packed with lush details and a gripping narrative, Dominic Smith’s masterful novel is about the ways in which the past echoes through generations, how the human heart is both fragile and resilient, and what it takes to stand up for justice no matter how much time has passed. Return to Valetto is a story of love, loss, and the enduring power of hope. Propulsive, heartfelt, and sneakily funny—I was transﬁxed from page one.”
—Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept
“The revelations of this stately and majestic novel—those of history, and those of the heart—unfold with meticulous grace. With fascists breathing down our necks anew, Return to Valetto could not be more timely, but it is the ﬁne writing and high drama that make it so memorable, and so moving.”
—Joshua Ferris, author of A Calling for Charlie Barnes
“In this propulsive, lush, and haunting novel, Dominic Smith transports us to a near-abandoned town in Umbria and shows how the courage to voice unspeakable secrets of the past can give new life to crumbling bonds of family and community. Filled with enormous hope for the future and rich appreciation for history, Return to Valetto will make you want to race through to the end but also slow down to savor the beautiful writing and sharp insights. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek