The Five Year Plan is the second book I’ve read by Jodi Gibson, who I know virtually through our shared love of reading and writing. Although this and her previous novel The Memories We Hide, veer a little more towards romance than my usual reading fodder I enjoyed both. They’re quintessential summer reads. They’re comforting…. offering some reassurance that all will be well in/with the world.
In some ways you can predict how things will ultimately end up but it’s the getting-there that I very much enjoyed here, particularly as Gibson predominantly sets this in Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region. I’ve never been but (very) coincidentally was in Italy this time three years ago.
And, as I’ve been in a reading (well, life) slump, this was the perfect book to lure me out of that malaise and offer that feel-good escape I so needed.The Five Year Plan
by Jodi Gibson
Published by Brio Books
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
At 33, DEMI Moretti’s five-year plan is on track. She’s moved in with her boyfriend Wil, and is waiting patiently for her father to retire so she can take over the running of the family café.
But when her father blindsides her by handing the café to her older brother Nick, and she suspects Wil might be cheating on her, Demi’s five year plan crumbles like crostoli.
Determined to get things back on track, Demi travels to Italy to learn more about her Italian heritage, and to give her and Wil some much needed space. And also in the hope that while she’s away, her father will come to his senses.
But her travels don’t go to plan either. Long held family feuds, a love triangle from the past, and an unexpected new friend in Leo, all come together to make Demi question everything – especially her five year plan.
As I said, there’s some predictability here in that you can see where things are headed with Demi’s partner Wil, who we meet briefly, and her assumption she will be anointed to run the family cafe. But of course I’m a cynical pessimist, or pessimistic cynic so I might have been alone there. Similarly, when she meets the dashing Leo at the airport we suspect they’ll meet again. And of course they do.
But she introduces family secrets, long-held grudges and rivalry with other local families which offer some great background texture and layers of complexity. Her references to life in Bari (and Italy in general) are wonderful. I felt very firmly placed in a rustic Italian town, where old and new clash delicately, resplendent with cobblestone streets that completely wreck your suitcase’s wheels, and obscure hole-in-the-wall cafes and restaurants. And – whether it’s the tourists or the culture – the sense that something is always happening.
I’m not a foodie but also appreciated Gibson’s inclusion of Italian cuisine and the ease with which she goes into detail about dishes. I could certainly visualise Demi sitting around with the Nonnas making orecchiette, for example. (Related: am ashamed to admit I had to google orecchiette to check what it looked like!)
I think we get a few hints during the novel as to how this will ultimately turn out for Demi, when even she starts to question whether her much-longed-for-family’s legacy is for her, or whether she wants something a bit different.
This is certainly a feel-good read. It was the perfect elixir for my mood of late, although it did make me feel wistful about the notion of travel and… life, elsewhere. I was also pleasantly reminded of some of Nicky Pellegrino’s novels which always offer an authentic view of Italy from an outsider’s perspective.
The Five Year Plan by Jodi Gibson was published in Australia by Brio Books and is now available.