By: Kimberly Sullivan
Publication Date: May 26, 2023
Reviewed By: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Feathered Quill Reviewer’s Choice Award-winner, Kimberly Sullivan, author of In the Shadow of the Apennines impresses again, with a collection of stories displaying emotional sophistication and surprise. Female main characters struggle to live through relatable challenges, such as learning to fit in with society and culture, accommodating difficult personalities in life and at work, and confronting painful pasts. Settings come alive in this collection; whether a character is soaking in the Mediterranean sunlight, or contemplating a memory while taking in a sweeping view of Luberon Valley, the rustic and romantic scenery and settings are just as well-drawn characters in these stories as are the people. From the medieval tower of Torano to the smell of lamb skewers over flame in Santo Stefano to a train ride overlooking the Neretva River and the snow-capped mountains beyond, characters move through their world as travelers, taking readers on journeys through parts of Europe. These characters are complex, intelligent women who seek love, adventure, and success. Each different protagonist exhibits a brilliant mix of American and European sensibilities.
The first story tells of two lifelong friends: when the younger narrator, foreign, needs to learn about Italian culture, the older woman acquaints her in fashion, relationship etiquette, and language. The second story is about a couple, married for over a decade, who try to improve their marriage with couple’s therapy, attempt a romantic getaway, and figure out what is not working. There are hard lessons that force the characters to display qualities such as cowardice, sarcasm, sincerity, or honesty. Friendship and relationship struggles arise and each story’s ending leaves lasting impressions. One story starts at a hotel in Dubrvnik, begins with a critical insight into the ways tourists behave abroad, but ends with a surprising revelation about the narrator and a past lover.
This is a collection that contains sharp and tender observations of the complexities of being human. In a deeply realized emotional story about a woman named Shawna who is grieving her recently-deceased, wealthy husband, the sophisticated widow disembarks from her life in Milan. She tells her social circle she will be retreating to a quiet Abbey in the hills. Instead, she boards her late husband’s yacht. When Shawna is resting aboard Massimiliano’s yacht, she thinks of her freedom, while looking out over the Liguria coast line. The San Marino church bells echo over the hills; she sips her bellini and feels free. The moment Shawna drops her dress to go “claim” her afternoon pleasure, ah! It’s a perfect serving of sensuality, and so self-assured in sexual swagger.
And if a reader is ever searching for a book of short stories that describes the right way to enjoy Bosnian coffee, well, this is that story collection. This is a wonderful read for those who love a book that guides the imagination to foreign destinations with a feeling of being at home anywhere in the world.
Quill says: Drink Wine and Be Beautiful masterfully delivers emotional complexity in settings rich with equal parts romance and melancholy.
For more information on Drink Wine and Be Beautiful: Short Stories, please visit the author's website at: https://kimberlysullivanauthor.com/