Sisterchicks in Gondolas

Sisterchicks in Gondolas

4.3 11
by Robin Jones Gunn

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Ciao bella!

SISTERCHICK n.: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.

When Jenna is invited to Venice for a week of cooking for a small retreat group, she knows just who to take along: her sister-in-law Sue. With her Dallas drawlSee more details below


Ciao bella!

SISTERCHICK n.: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.

When Jenna is invited to Venice for a week of cooking for a small retreat group, she knows just who to take along: her sister-in-law Sue. With her Dallas drawl and wild tangle of red hair, Sue desperately needs her own retreat from the pressures of the past two years…and blessedly for their guests, Sue actually knows how to cook (unlike Jenna)!

With about six words of Italian between them, a map, and a keen appetite for gelato, they puzzle out the lovely city together. During their stay, Jenna and Sue become victims of grace in ways they never expected—starting with their accommodations: a restored fifteenth-century palace on a quiet canal complete with a stairwell perfect for mattress sledding!

Coming out of a time of dark shadows in their lives, these two friends dive into a new season of refreshing and realize that sometimes when serving God, the most important thing to do is just show up…and watch for goodness and mercy to follow close behind. Come join Jenna and Sue over boiling pots of pasta in this lilting gondola-paced adventure!

Discussion guide included

Story Behind the Book

Sisterchicks in Gondolas was birthed after Robin experienced Italy for herself. “In the summer of 2004, I went to Venice with my lifetime fellow Sisterchick from Ireland , Ruby,” she says. “We explored the city with our daughters and discovered the joys of Italian living.” With a splash of humor, grace, and a few zany antics, this latest Sisterchicks release continues to celebrate the unique and timeless bond between women friends. Entertaining and delightful, the story also challenges readers to examine their relationships with one another and with God.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sisterchicks , #6
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


I don’t think I would have gone to Venice if I hadn’t had a crazy thought five years ago that woke me at three o’clock one morning.

I was used to wacky, middle-of-the-night thoughts, but not like this one. Usually I created mental memos such as, “Send Aunt Becky’s birthday card by Tuesday, or it won’t arrive in time.” In my head I would respond, “Okay,” and fall back asleep.

Other times the thoughts came fragmented like, “car insurance.” Those were the ones I hated because I’d lie alone in the darkness wondering, “Am I behind on a payment? Or was I merely dreaming about a late-night commercial with some dancing lizard telling me I was paying too much for my current coverage?”

When I discussed these annoying, sleep-robbing thoughts with my sister-in-law, Sue, she responded, “Welcome to menopause.” Then she told me that she keeps a notepad and pen by her bed and another one in her purse at all times. “That way, if I do go completely insane, at least I’ll have left a trail for the medical community to follow, sort of like bread crumbs.”

Taking her advice, I put a notepad by my bed. That’s why I can still remember the persistent thought that woke me and set this adventure into motion. The 3 a.m. revelation was simple: “You’re not done yet.”

That was it. I wasn’t “done.” Done with what, I didn’t know.

I wrote down the thought, but then, instead of falling back to sleep, I considered all the things I had started but never finished. The list was long. Very few events in my life had unfurled the way I had thought they would. I was too old to start over but too young to roll over and play dead. Such is the muddle of midlife, I told myself. I shouldn’t elevate my expectations this far along in my quota of years. I should be winding down, right?

But at 3 a.m. that particular spring morning, I wasn’t “done” yet. And I didn’t know what that meant.

Sleep wouldn’t return, so I slipped out of bed and made a cup of tea. The sound of the newspaper thumping against the front door of my condo told me the world around me was waking. In a few hours I would leave for work. During the hectic pace of my position as a checkout clerk at Abbot’s Grocery, I would scan dozens of cans of soup and tomato sauce. I would weigh Red Delicious apples (code #4782) and dripping bundles of romaine lettuce (code #4623). I would say, “Have a nice day” more times than any human should have to say that phrase, and I would forget any thoughts that had come to me in the night.

Then, in the wee hours of the next morning, the same thought returned and woke me again. This time I sat up in bed and said aloud, “What? What isn’t finished?” All was silent except for the whirl of the ceiling fan over my bed.

I fell back asleep. My unremarkable life continued at its usual pace for two more weeks.

Then a letter came from Sam, a friend from college who was now the director of an international mission that was based in Europe.

Jenna, would you consider traveling to Venice in July? We need someone to cook at our mission leaders’ retreat. You keep coming to mind. We were given two comp airline tickets from the U.S. so you can bring a friend. The retreat is only for four days. You may stay at the palace the remainder of the week at no charge. Please respond ASAP.

I read the note again. Venice? Why me? Why now?

I wasn’t a very good cook. Sam knew that because I worked on the kitchen staff one summer at a camp he and his wife ran in Austria. But that was during college. A life-
time ago. Sam and Austria and cooking all happened when I was young and naive and had lofty plans for my life. Then I fell in love, and, ignoring advice from friends and family, I spontaneously got married. I had a beautiful daughter and an unwanted divorce all before I was twenty-seven. That was when my life grew small.

Now I was being invited to be part of something outside the small boundaries of my broken, limited life. And in Europe, no less. Was this the unfinished business?

Sam’s invitation stirred something deep within me. I realized that no matter what age we are, a profound sweetness glides over the human spirit when we are included in a small circle by an old friend. It’s a humbling thing to be chosen.

I cried for the first time in a long time, and then I called my sister-in-law. Sue was the friend I chose to take with me to Italy.

She was coming up for air after the worst two years of her life. Because she never had been to Europe, she understandably was hesitant about leaving home, but she finally agreed. We left behind everything familiar about our lives in Dallas when we boarded that airplane and flew to Italy.

Neither of us expected the transformations that began in us during our week in Venice. Our luxurious makeovers started with morning walks to the panetteria, where we bought our daily bread. Our nails were “manicured” by eager pigeons that we fed from open hands at San Marco Square. Instead of cucumber slices over closed eyes, we opened our eyes wide inside the grand, Byzantine churches and drew in the scent of honeyed candles. We meditated on God and life while listening for the echo of footsteps on the ancient tiles.

So much changed inside both of us on that trip. Sue and I look back and refer to that summer as the summer we were ambushed. Neither of us saw the blessings coming. They just came—and kept coming—and bowled us over.

Sue now has a term for what happened in Venice. She says we were “victims of grace.” I like that. Both of us had been victims of a lot of other stuff over the long years. How sweet of God to make us victims of grace when we were old enough to appreciate what that gift cost Him.

Yes, we were transformed in Venice. We both are convinced that what happened to us never would have happened in Dallas. Not that God can’t change a heart and a life in Dallas—or anywhere else—but they don’t have gondolas in Dallas. And for our transformation, we definitely needed a gondola.

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