When in Rome: A Novel (Hardcover)
From nationally bestselling, award-winning author Liam Callanan, the story of an opportunity to start over at midlife, a chance to save a struggling convent in the Eternal City, and the dramatic re-emergence of an old flame . . .
Meet Claire: fifty-two, desperate to do something new and get a fresh start.
Enter the chance to go to Rome: Home to a struggling convent facing a precipitous end, the city beckons Claire, who's long had a complicated relationship with religion, including a “missed connection” with convent life in her teens. Once in Rome, she finds a group of funny, fearless nuns in a gorgeous villa, beautiful runs throughout a color-saturated city, and a chance to reflect. It all leads her to an unexpected question—should she join the convent?—and an answer that startles her as much as it does those closest to her.
It also startles Marcus, a once-buzzy actor, devastatingly handsome, who is eternally in love with Claire. Marcus has come and gone from Claire’s life since college but now reappears in Rome just as she’s about to decide what’s next.
As Claire searches for her higher calling, she finds the key to her future may lay in her past—and involves an actual key. The nuns swear it unlocks nothing, but on a night when choices and voices swirl, Claire finds a long-hidden lock.
A look at faith, in oneself as much as a higher power, and love, romantic and familial, lost and found, this is the thoroughly charming story of one woman who sets out to rewrite her past and future, only to be surprised by the plot twists life plants . . . when in Rome.
About the Author
Liam Callanan is a novelist, teacher, and journalist. His novel Paris by the Book, a national bestseller, was translated into multiple languages and won the 2019 Edna Ferber Prize. He’s also the 2017 winner of the Hunt Prize, and his first novel, The Cloud Atlas, was a finalist for an Edgar Award. Liam’s work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and he's recorded numerous essays for public radio. He's also taught for the Warren Wilson MFA program for writers, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughters.
“Callanan’s Claire is a soulful seeker, and his Rome, a sensory pleasure."
“If Eat, Pray, Love was organized in a different order, it might feel a bit like Callanan's introspective and genuine exploration of the sacrifices and opportunities that come with a new outlook on life. Taking a wide view of love of all types—platonic, spiritual, romantic, geographic—When in Rome should appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson, Kate Weinberg, and Emma Straub.”
“Callanan writes a richly drawn story about a woman feeling lost in her own life and finding unexpected connections, with a lively cast of supporting characters. . . . A quiet and ultimately joyous depiction of self-discovery against a vibrant Roman setting.”
“Callanan (Paris by the Book) builds a charming story from a woman’s midlife crisis…Callanan keeps things moving with the question of the convent’s fate hanging over the characters, and carefully outlines Claire’s complicated feelings about her relationships and vocation. This is a delight.”
“[A] sweet romantic comedy . . . This novel's scenic descriptions, food references and coffee bar stops may have the susceptible Googling flights to Italy.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Love and faith are at the center of Liam Callanan's heartfelt story of self-discovery and reinvention. Claire at middle age, is at a crossroads as she faces the despair of her lost dreams and the hope that there's still time tofind happiness. Book clubs will go wild for Claire's new mission, shaped by a series of events propelled by nuns, the restorative beauty of the Eternal City and the urgency that comes from the determination to live life before it's over. When in Rome will delight readers everywhere."
—Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Left Undone
"When in Rome is a total delight. It has all my favorite things—a gorgeous setting, a fierce and funny female protagonist, and nuns! Best of all, it showcases Liam Callanan's trademark wisdom about the human heart, and reminds us that it's never too late to change your life."
—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Friends and Strangers
“When in Rome is a love story, a tug-of-war between fate and faith, and Claire is its funny, thoughtful, searching guide. In fact, she's one of the most delightful narrators I've encountered in recent fiction, full of genuine curiosity and relatable contradictions. I happily followed her through the winding streets of Rome, and I'd go anywhere else she'd care to take me.”
—Lauren Fox, New York Times bestselling author of Send for Me
"Liam Callanan's beautiful novel swept me away—right into the cobblestoned streets of Rome. His sumptuous descriptions are magically transportive, and his characters are as well, as they wrestle with questions of love, of faith, and of service to a higher power. This is a story for the mind and for the soul, and is one that will stay with me for a long time."
—Jill Santopolo, author of Stars in an Italian Sky
“I tore through When In Rome—it’s a delicious love story, a guilty pleasure without the guilt. But it’s a sneaky novel, too, because Liam Callanan has miraculously melded a light-hearted, globe-hopping, time-travelling plot with soulful meditations on community, commitment, and vocation. I’ll be reading it again in Travestere.”
—Valerie Sayers, author of The Age of Infidelity and The Powers
"Cancel that Alitalia flight. All the fun of a trip to Italy—and a Yale education, for that matter—can be found for a fraction of the price in Liam Callanan’s delightful novel When In Rome. With breathtaking descriptions of secret corners of the Eternal City and New Haven, this novel introduces us to Claire, who, at 52, is ready to resolve issues of faith, passion, and obligation that have dogged her since she was 22. Only she has to think about things a little longer. So hold on. And while you wait, prepare to be charmed by this clever, engaging book."
—Debra Spark, author of Unknown Caller
“By turns funny, smart and faithful, Liam Callanan’s real strength here is in showcasing the real struggles of ordinary Catholics to find grace and contentment in whatever vocation they choose.”
“Can you rewrite your past, reaffirm your faith, and find your higher self? When In Rome is a story full of plot twists.”
“What a beautiful and stirring book this is. Callanan has done maybe the most impossible thing - written a book about faith, that thing we can neither hold nor see, but something he's made palpable through Claire's remarkable journey.”
—Marisa Silver, author of The Mysteries and Little Nothing