In The Journey, Nick and Laura Lobono, a young married couple, win a trip to Italy. Nick, who is somewhat emotionally closed off as a result of witnessing the towers fall on 9/11 and a suicide bombing in a subsequent tour of Afghanistan, dreads touring with a group. His worst fears are confirmed when he and Laura arrive in Italy and meet their rather interesting tour group: a well-educated, elegant tour guide depressed by a job that doesn’t begin to tax her talents and a bus-driving Lothario with a girl at every stop; a minister and his wife, both of whom bear a hidden burden; two man-eating sisters; two cane and walker-wielding older ladies; a troubled young girl who makes some dangerous choices; two surprisingly interesting nuns on a mission from the Vatican; an obnoxious, wealthy man, his sorely beleaguered wife, and their two camera-obsessed friends; and a pair of newlyweds, one of whom cries constantly. How can this tour possibly turn out well for Nick?
The Journey does not have a traditional story arc with rising tension, a climax, and denouement. Instead, this story meanders with the group’s tour of Italy. As Maresca’s characters visit various famous or not-so-famous sites and dine on mouthwatering cuisine, they slowly reveal their individual stories. Throughout the novel, Maresca interweaves wonderfully descriptive passages about Italy, its history and art. Indeed, information revealed in the nuns’ particularly intriguing historical research begs for independent research to determine if it is in fact true. By the end of The Journey, the reader may feel as though he or she has taken a vacation to Italy and met a group of friends without ever needing to apply for a passport. Moreover, some may even hope for a sequel to discover how events played out for some of these endearing characters.