Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought our Family Home – Book Review

Halfway to Each Other
At the age of 44, Susan Pohlman secretly began divorce proceedings.  She was going to wait until after a business trip to Italy to let her husband, Tim, know that their marriage was over.  God, however, had other plans for Susan, Tim and their two children.  During the business trip, Susan visited some of the beautiful Catholic churches of Florence with the typical touristy attitude ― they were a few must-see items.  Her soul, however, was mysteriously touched while in these magnificent churches.  Her heart churned in an unexpected way and the world felt curiously different to her.  Little did Susan know that Tim also felt something mystical while in Florence. 

A Strange Sense of Comfort
A few days later, in a different town, further north, Susan woke to a stunning sunrise which prompted her to wake Tim.  She oddly wanted to share the glorious moment with the man she was to soon leave for good.  Later during that peace-filled day, Tim, at first casually and then rather seriously, suggested that they move to Italy for a year or so ― that Italy seemingly brought them closer together and left them feeling a long-yearned-for sense of comfort.  Susan’s heart readily took to the idea, but her practical side began to pick it apart: finances, the language, the kids, school, the house, how she had already invested so much into the divorce. 

A Huge Leap of Faith
However, with a few more nudges and whispers from God, Susan agreed to take the huge leap of faith.  Back in the U.S., she put the divorce proceedings on hold; the couple risked financial ruin by selling their house, putting their careers to the side, packing up the kids, and moving to Italy ― to a small town not far from Genoa.  Their hope was to somehow repair their broken family.

When I saw that Susan Pohlman’s book was about an American family living in Italy, I knew it was a book for me.  My family lived in Italy for three years in the 1990s, and the experience was profound; I couldn’t wait to read Susan’s impressions.  I was captivated ― I loved her blend of humor and struggle while conveying so many intriguing stories about their time in Italy.  She shared the many comical things that can happen to an American family trying to live in a country where stores are closed on Sundays (and for three hours or so in the afternoon every day), where the language barrier makes communication complicated, and where shopping for groceries presented mostly ingredients ― very little in the line of American-style pre-prepared meals.  I chuckled throughout; many of Susan’s experiences reminded me of my own. 

Love Slowly Renewing
In between laughs, Susan lets the readers know how her marriage is doing: how by living a very simplified lifestyle, there were far fewer intrusions upon her marriage, how she felt renewed twinges when her husband would hold her hand, how by having scant social pressures she leaned more heavily on him for friendship.  Not all is suddenly good, though, and Susan began to put an even heavier reliance on God concerning her marriage.  She begged for God’s guidance, hoping that He would help her and Tim put their once-loving marriage back together.  You can feel the struggles, the yielding, the pressures, and the new dimensions of love.  Some poignant religious experiences are also blended in:  the kindness of the parishioners at their tiny neighborhood Catholic chapel, a feeling of tremendous awe at seeing the Pope, tranquilly listening to hymns chanted by monks at a fifteenth century Abbey, an inspiring pilgrimage to Lourdes, France.  Readers can’t help but laugh, be amazed, and get teary-eyed along the way.

Halfway to Each Other can give pause to people who have mistakenly put obtaining possessions and achievements before God and family.  This book demonstrates how less really can be more.  Whether in a comfortable marriage, a difficult marriage, or not married at all, the story challenges readers to stop, slow down and let Love/God seep more deeply into their lives.