As a middle-aged woman navigating the back nine of life, I’ve grown increasingly used to feeling irrelevant in the face of new technological products, performance events, music, books and movies that I generally find uninteresting and quickly realize are not designed to speak to me anyway. So what a wonderful surprise it was to come upon Mia Madre, the new Italian film by Nanni Moretti about a single, female film director named Margherita (Margherita Buy) maneuvering her way through middle age. While Margherita struggles to make a socially conscious movie about violent labor-management confrontations in a factory, her personal life is fraught with sorrows: her mother lies dying in a hospital, her latest romantic relationship just fizzled and her adolescent daughter is floundering.

I took the assignment of reviewing Delia Ephron’s new novel, Siracusa, not because I’m a fan of the author’s (this is, in fact, the first book of hers I’ve read) but, because, well, I’ve twice visited Siracusa—the seaside Sicilian city, better known to English speakers as Syracuse, where half the novel is set. I thought maybe reading the book might make me relive my experiences there, which in an unexpected way it did.