Wednesday, May 20, 2020


  • Publisher: She Writes Press (May 19, 2020)
  • Publication Date: May 19, 2020
  • Sold by: Services LLC
  • Language: English

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.


“Wistful yet uplifting, the book mourns the fading past, while celebrating the intricate beauty of each passing moment. An acutely observed, tenderly philosophical novel that tells a wonderfully bittersweet story.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Barbara Sapienza has provided a blueprint for living and prevailing in the modern world of the 21st century.”
―John D Bredehoeft, PhD, member of the National Academy of Engineering

“Sapienza elicits sympathy for her Italian immigrant heroine who has more ups and downs than San Francisco has hills, but whose travails and travels left me happy and hungry for Mexican food and espresso.”
―Ann Ludwig, freelance travel writer, The New York Times

“Barbara Sapienza unfolds the tale with the same sensitivity and insight we saw in her previous novel, Anchor Out. With complex characters and a strong sense of place, Sapienza has created a world where Lavinia’s memories are recovered with as much intuition as recollection.”
―Kathy Andrew, author of The Creative Zone

“So beautiful and loving. A bittersweet odyssey of self-discovery from Naples to North Beach.”
―Steven A. Foreman, MD., author of Breaking The Spell: Understanding Why Kids Do the Very Thing That Drives You Crazy

“A talented psychotherapist and author, Sapienza introduces us to Lavinia Lavinia, a dancing, bubblegum-chewing laundress, lost and searching to understand her roots. With smart and compelling writing she weaves a rich, psychologically accurate and complex tale of love, curses, loss and redemption. Lavinia will remain in your thoughts long after completing this wonderful book.”
―Dr. Jessica Broitman, psychoanalyst, author, and president of the International Control Mastery Therapy Group


I enjoyed our protagonist Lavinia Lavinia who lives in beautiful San Francisco is a full service laundress. It was written very well with amazing prose and a beautiful story altogether. Lavinia is a very interesting character with an even more interesting cast of clients. An interesting question posed by one of her clients caught her wondering about who her parents were and where she came from. She has very little memory since she was a mere 4 yo, and whisked away to begin living with her aunt and uncle. A heart warming story that really delves into the complex characters and family drama. I really enjoyed this one.

About the Author

Barbara Sapienza, PhD, is a retired clinical psychologist and an alumna of San Francisco State University’s creative writing master’s program. She writes and paints, nourished by her spiritual practices of meditation, tai chi, and dance. Her family, friends, and grandchildren are her teachers. Her first novel, Anchor Out (She Writes Press, 2017) received an IPPY bronze medal for Best Regional Fiction, West Coast. Sapienza lives in Sausalito, CA, with her husban

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