Reviewed by Nina Longfield
In 1956 San Francisco, Caterina Rosetta is grappling with agony. She is a young, college educated woman with her life ahead of her. She is also an unwed single mother. Her hosts at the maternity house where she’s been staying assure Caterina that it’s best to let Marisa go. They press her to adopt her baby out to a married couple. In a desperate attempt to hold on to her child, Caterina returns home to the estate and vineyard owned and run by her willful mother, Ava. Caterina plans to reveal her secret to her mother; she plans to tell her mother about Marisa.
The Winemakers by Jan Moran is drenched with fine intricate secrets created as one might synthesize the perfect bottle of wine. In some sense, secrets begin as a means of protection. These secrets grow and take on lives of their own until those secrets almost destroy the lives they were meant to protect.
Ava Rosetta carries deep secrets and she’d like for them to remain buried in the past. She settled in California during the midst of the Great Depression. Widowed and alone with a child, Ava built a winery of discerning taste. The estate and vineyard are legendary. She longs to have Caterina home with her, married with children. As Ava is scheming to reconnect Caterina with her former boyfriend, Ava is also working to prevent Caterina from knowing of her inheritance in Italy. After a fight with her mother, Caterina accepts her inheritance and takes Marisa to Tuscany and the ancestral home of her father. It is in the old-country that Caterina learns her family truths.
Jan Moran’s The Winemakers is a beautifully written story embracing desires, willfulness, and the courage to endure. Moran wonderfully captures the experiences of a young single mother driven to keep her child and build a future for them both. It is with emotional clarity that Moran delves into the mother, daughter relationship of Ava and Caterina.
I greatly enjoyed The Winemakers for the story, the scenery, and mostly for the characters. Ava and Caterina Rosetta are strong, remarkable women with lots of depth. Both women are passionate but don’t let their passions drive them. They both learn and grow throughout the novel. The settings are stunning but it felt as if Moran was glancing over the landscape rather than looking at it. This is understandable since there is so much story here and too much description would slow the novel’s momentum. I just wish Moran’s landscape descriptions were as finely wrought as her interior details and descriptions of wine.
The Winemakers is gripping, passionate, and at times heartrending, yet it is also an utterly hopeful novel. I recommend Jan Moran’s The Winemakers for an epic story that is thought provoking and a worthwhile read.
Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at www.bckwritingcorner.com.
Review copy was provided by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.