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-and a hub of resistance and refuge during World War II-centuries of earthquakes, landslides and the lure of a better life have left it neglected. Only ten residents 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 harboured, gave the cottage to them in gratitude. Like so many threads of history, this revelation unravels a secret - a betrayal, a disappearance and an unspeakable act of violence - that has impacted 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 long-buried story, a page-turning excavation of the ruins of history and our commitment to justice in a fragile world. For fans of Amor Towles, Anthony Doerr and Jess Walter, it is a deeply human and transporting testament to the possibility of love and understanding across gaps of all kinds - even time.
From the international bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.
Advance praise for Return to Valetto
'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 novel, 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
'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
'The revelations of Return to Valetto—those of history, and those of the heart—unfold with meticulous grace in Dominic Smith's stately and majestic novel. 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