Today’s author interview guest is Barbara Sapienza, author of The Laundress: A Novel.
Twenty-six-year-old Lavinia Lavinia is burdened by her unknown heritage—but her uncle Sal, who raised her in San Francisco, has always kept silent, refusing to reveal the devastating secret of her origin. And now, following the death of his wife, he’s left for Italy.
In the wake of her uncle’s departure, Lavinia has quit school. Now she works as a personal laundress to a diverse cast of San Francisco residents—people with stories as complicated as her own. As time progresses, through the sacred ritual of washing clothes—and with the help of a friend and her nurturing, flamenco dancing mother—Lavinia begins to recover memories of her past. Gradually, her gifts of receptivity multiply, and she communes with nature, finding messages from birds and the leaves of her garden’s fig tree. And when she recovers Raggedy, a beloved doll that accompanied her from Naples when she was four years old, she experiences a tangible connection to her own mother.
Even as Lavinia makes these discoveries, she is busy building new relationships—discovering healing dance with her lover, a barista in a North Beach coffee shop; learning to understand Time and forgiveness with an elderly client; and even getting to know her father, a man who has never been a part of her life. Poetic and poignant, The Laundress is a coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever sought to understand where they came from in order to figure out who they’re meant to become.
Barbara Sapienza is a retired clinical psychologist who practiced
in San Francisco. At sixty-six she enrolled in the graduate program in Creative Writing at SFSU. She lives in Sausalito with her husband and enjoys her granddaughters, Milla and Isa.