Love & Olives

Jenna Evans Welch

4 stars!

Another amazing book by Jenna Evans Welch! While Love and Gelato is still my favorite of her novels, I’ve loved all of them so far and was especially excited when I heard this one was going to be set in a place I had actually visited. Santorini, Greece! This books follows the story of Addie’s soccer friend Olive (“Liv”) (Though unfortunately neither Addie nor Lina appear in this book) as she travels to Greece to see her father whom she had not met since she was eight. This book deals with some heavier topics than the author’s previous ones, including mental health and abandonment, but still manages to be a lighthearted read without glossing over the importance of these issues. 
As usual for this series, the setting was a highlight of the novel, and even in just reading about Santorini I learned more about the island than I did when actually visiting (believe it or not, the buildings weren’t all painted nice to look good on your social media). I felt like I was back in Santorini which was a welcome relief considering how I’ve barely been able to leave home during the pandemic. It was clear that the author had done a lot of research regarding the island, but it never came across as info dumping either. I loved the Atlantis storyline and the possible connection between Atlantis and the island, which I had never heard about before. I feel like Atlantis is not explored too often in books and I loved the kind of Could-be/ Could-not-be fantasy element it added to the book, although it remained still very much the contemporary I was looking for. Of course one of the most amazing parts of the setting was the most quirky and wonderlandistic bookstore! And Liv of course gets to sleep in a bedroom that opens through a secret wall in this very bookstore. It does make me sad at times to remember that fictional places are not, in fact, places I can actually visit. Sigh.
The father-daughter element of this story was reminiscent of Love and Gelato, but was handled in a very different way. I appreciated the way that the author showed that both Liv and her father needed time and space to connect to one another again rather than it being one sided. I think family elements are often ignored in novels like these unless it is to cause drama, which is sad because there is so much potential for these kinds of stories, and it made me so happy to see it here. Of course, that does not mean that Toby and his ever-present camera were completely irrelevant, and I laughed the goofiness that he brought the story and the way he brought Liv out of her shell and helped her recognize that she was worth more than she realized.
Overall I thought this story was a beautiful novel that ultimately showed that family means more than anything else, even if it can also be the hardest thing to be a part of.

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