When I first read Love and Gelato by Jenna Welch in my preteens, I didn’t like it. I thought the main character was unrelatable and the story was boring. However, I recently decided to reread the book, and to my surprise, I abandoned my past judgment and fell in love with the story and the characters. I enjoyed watching Lina, the protagonist, adventure to Italy, fall in love, and persevere through the ups and downs after great personal loss. Her strength, humor, and sincere attitude illustrated a character I would want to emulate.
Love and Gelato follows Lina’s story after losing her mother, Hadley, to cancer. Her mother’s last wish was for Lina to spend time in Florence, Italy with an old college friend and supposed father, Howard. While in Florence, Lina meets Lorenzo, and a friendship quickly blossoms between them. She is also given her mother’s old diary, which tells the story of Hadley’s adventure in Italy and sends Lina on a hunt for her true family. With her new friend and the diary, Lina gets to see Italy through her mother’s eyes and gains a new understanding of her mother.
Analysis: SPOILERS AHEAD!
One of my favorite aspects of this book is how Welch explores the theme of searching for family. Lina goes to live with Howard, who she believes is her father. However, she soon discovers that her father is actually her mother’s former professor. She tracks down her biological father, but her hunt ends in rejection. Brokenhearted, she continues to read her mother’s diary and realizes that Howard was her mother’s true love. After showing Howard the diary to assure him of her mother’s devotion to him, Howard and Lina are united, giving Lina the family her mother wanted for her. I love how Welch uses the diary to help Lina find the family she needed. Alos, through Lina’s desperation to find her father, Welch demonstrates the value of family in a very relatable way.
Another thing I enjoyed are the two love stories: Lina and Lorenzo’s and Hadley and Howard’s. Lina and Ren’s romance is sweet to watch because it develops from their friendship, allowing them to truly understand each other’s emotions. For example, Ren empathizes with Lina’s grief over her mother’s death and does his best to care for her whether it is taking her to all the places her mother went in Italy or listening to her discoveries from the diary. This devotion is also seen in Hadley and Howard’s relationship.
Howard was one of the first friends Hadley made, and he continues to be her friend even when she falls for another man. When this relationship goes awry because of that man’s lack of devotion, Howard continues to stick by Hadley’s side. Hadley ends up leaving because of her pregnancy, however, she gets to express her love to Howard before she dies by writing in the diary, “I made the wrong choice.” These words affirm that Howard’s devotion was not unrequited. While Lina and Ren’s love story ends with them together and Hadley and Howard’s ends with them apart, they both demonstrate that love perseveres.
Love and Gelato definitely deserves a 4 out of 5 stars for its romance, drama, and adventure. Welch takes the subject of grief and helps readers understand that the process is different for everyone. Lina went through her grief by walking in her mother’s footsteps, which helps her process her loss and discover the father who understands the love she had for her mother. I enjoyed that the love story between Lina and Ren was not the main focus, but their relationship helped the reader to better understand Lina and her emotions. Overall, I really adored this book, and I’m glad I decided to give it another chance.
You can buy this story at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. However, if you aren’t an avid reader like me, Netflix released the film this past year. I’ll warn you that the film is not at all like the book, but that’s another review for another time.