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"A lovely, focused work with rich details and a sure narrative voice that keeps things moving. Well worth the effort. . . the charm and innocence of the sisters is appealing, particularly in these anxious times. It reads almost like a fairy tale . . . Escapist yet grounded in a precise appreciation of the places and people she meets. Love, adventure, humor, grace, style - all amid the threat of war, reminds me of the movie Tea with Mussolini." --Robert T., New York 

"This autobiographical tale told by one of two young American sisters on a year-long vacation in Italy in 1938 was a non-stop read for me. I couldn't put it down. How much of it was written by Becky Landrum, how much by her son Michael, is anybody's guess because the story is seamless, but my estimate is that most of it is Becky's, not only because she is listed as lead author but because it has the quality of a journal--not one of the academic and pretentious travel journals of Henry Adams and his ilk, but the kind you or I might keep: innocent, unafraid to report embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations, eager to take a childlike joy in new sights and new people.

Becky's succinct prose, while not polished and professional, was the perfect way to tell her story. (Here the trip diary worked for the narrative in a positive way.) In 216 pages she offers a travelogue not only of Italy and a corner of Switzerland, but also of the train stops and ship ports between Joplin, Missouri and her dream vacation in Europe. Her description of the peoples and locales were right on the money. Once in Italy, her observations frequently made me laugh, not only her explanation of the meaning of "Americanata" (you should have the amusement of reading that for yourself) but also shrewd comments on society and the differentness of living in a foreign land.

I want to share two of these. The first appears on page 89, observations of a society 'high tea' by a no-nonsense young woman from the American Midwest. No one could have better described the harried and underrated servants of prewar Europe:

'We were waited on by a starched, gloved, and uniformed team of servants who whirled silently around us as though on roller skates.'

Those not fortunate enough to have traveled in Italy have heard of its wild road traffic, yet the following passage on page 111 took me joyously by surprise and the final sentence must be one of the best one-liners I've ever read:


'[We sat] at a small outdoor café on a busy street. Bicycles made up half the traffic, and many of them were delivering merchandise. The most unusual were two men on bicycles holding an armchair between them, balancing it like a circus act. It was the most entertaining traffic I had ever seen.'

The dark side of this tale is the presence of Mussolini, the rumbling backdrop of Hitler's thrust toward war, and the result it had on several of Becky's friends, including one young Englishman she fell half in love with. But by and large AMERICANATA is book full of joy, beauty, and rollicking good storytelling! Highly recommended."-- Reviewer: A reader from Vienna, VA US

"A trip of a lifetime, a one-year sojourn into a world that would soon vanish, is the experience that Becky Landrum relates in this warm, lively memoir. Two sisters in their early twenties travel from their home in America’s heartland--Joplin, Missouri--to pre-WWII Italy, where their elder sister lives with her husband and children. But travel in 1938 is not a matter of several hours in the air over the Atlantic. The trip itself is exciting and glamorous, first by train to New York, then by ocean liner to the Mediterranean and exotic ports before reaching Genoa. Once at their sisters’ home in Milan, the American 'girls' (as Ms. Landrum refers to herself and her sister, Blossom) become part of the social whirl for foreigners there.

Ms. Landrum’s story (co-authored by her son, Mike) is about more than the cocktail parties, 'dressing' for dinner, and nightclubs (though that is pretty fun stuff, to be sure). She is a lively tour guide, taking the reader along as she and Blossom climb the dome at St. Peters, eat at Alfredo’s and see Mussolini address the crowd from his balcony in Rome; or as they live every tourist’s nightmare and discover in the middle of nowhere that they are on the wrong train. She also writes about family and the strength that comes from that bond. Most appealingly, Ms. Landrum writes with candor and fondness about her young self. Her style is both direct and friendly--what you would expect from a plain-spoken Missourian.

Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t have time to read this lovely little book for weeks - but I made the mistake of reading 'just the introduction' and couldn’t put it down. That is the best compliment I can give any book - when it holds my attention so completely that I finish it in two days it means I loved it! 

The world as it was in 1938 is gone forever, but Ms. Landrum gives us a glimpse of it through young eyes. It’s a great view." --Reviewer – Anonymous