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Popes, Piazzas and Parenthood in the Eternal City

When writer Anthony Doerr moved to Rome with his family for a year, his most vivid images of the Eternal City came straight from a childhood coloring book.

He remembered two babies slurping milk from a wolf's udders, a grinning Caesar in a leafy crown and a slinky, big-pupiled maiden posed with a jug beside a fountain.

But during his stay in Rome on a fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Doerr gained new perspective as a writer, researcher and perhaps most importantly, a father of six-month-old twins. He recounts his time abroad in a new book, Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World.

Doerr's twins, Owen and Henry, provide the initial connection to Italians and their culture. When they arrive in the fall, Doerr and his wife discover they can barely walk a few feet before friendly Italians stop to admire their babies. But like most newborns, the boys also push their parents to exhaustion and take time away from Doerr's main task — writing a novel.

In the spring, Doerr covers the vigil for the dying Pope John Paul II, providing insight into the man and his death. Each season brings new discoveries as he celebrates the joys of parenthood, the frustrations of cultural barricades and the riches of Roman life.

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