After divorce, Shelton native ‘refound’ her joy living single in Tuscany

SHELTON — Sara Braca had her wedding day planned to perfection. That was until St. Lawrence Church, home to big event, caught fire only days before her nuptials.

This was back in 2002. Braca’s wedding ultimately took place at St. Joseph’s Church that year, but six years later, the marriage ended, leaving the longtime Shelton resident joining the single ranks once again.

“This led to my life motto: When God burns down the church, cancel the wedding,’” said Braca. This self-deprecating, comic storytelling is a staple in her first book, “The Other Half of Single: A Memoir.”

Braca never liked writing, admitting she has spent most of her life avoiding the practice. But the change in her life brought with it a desire to tell her story and led her to spend her off hours writing the book she never expected to create.

“I felt like I had a message I needed to share, that I could uniquely help other single people see the joy in their lives,” said Braca, who was born and raised in Shelton but now calls Siena, Italy, home. “I wanted to empower them to live their lives fully, now, partnered or not.”

Braca — whose Shelton roots remain strong, with her parents, Annette and Joe Braca, still living in the house in which she grew up — said her book is a collection of her real-life adventures as she has “re-found” her joy.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 percent of American households are single, up from 13 percent in 1960. Singles are a fast-growing demographic and yet, she said the stigma against singles persists.

“While there are many books out there telling single people how to find a partner, almost nothing suggests they celebrate where they are now,” Braca said. “It’s about time we stop making single people feel inadequate and start celebrating the unique opportunities being single presents.

“I hope that it will encourage single people everywhere to live their lives fully, now,” she added.

Braca said she was inspired to write this book after coming across a book called “The Opposite of Loneliness,” by Marina Keegan — a collection of short stories published posthumously after her untimely death at age 23.

“She was so talented, but silenced. In that moment, it seemed wrong to silence my own voice. So, I started writing,” Braca said.

Braca, the Shelton High Class of 1995 valedictorian, spent her younger years obsessed with math, avoiding writing at all costs. She said when the time came to write her college application essays, she was incredibly anxious.

“At the time, Dartmouth required applicants to choose the topic they wanted to write about,” Braca recalled. “My guidance counselor at Shelton High suggested that I write about how much I didn’t like to write, so I wrote this very comedic essay, quoting some of my own term papers from English class. It was a huge hit at Dartmouth, and I was accepted. My book has a similar, slightly self-deprecating, comedic style.”

After graduating Shelton High, she attended Dartmouth and then the Wharton School for her MBA. She has been in marketing for years.

She moved to Italy in June 2021, and thanks to the new remote working culture, she works for an American company from Tuscany.

She is vice president of marketing for Beyond Better Foods — makers of the Enlightened brand of lower-sugar ice cream and desserts — and is responsible for all marketing strategy and communications. And now she’s an author in her spare time.

“I’ve been working on the book for almost four years,” she said. “I was working full-time while trying to write it, so just finding the time to write and be creative was a challenge. Also, as a former math major, I had a lot of impostor syndrome and self-doubt.

“One of my best memories in the publishing process was the day my editor said, ‘Stop telling me about your math background. You’re a writer now,’” she said.

In the book, she describes the transformative power of travel, and not surprisingly, most of the experiences that have influenced her today involve travel.

Among the travels she writes about include her first solo trip to Amsterdam. While walking alongside a canal in the sunshine, admiring the city’s famous flower market, she realized this was the moment she could choose her own path.

“I could choose to be happy despite what had happened,” she added.

Other experiences were to the cliffs of Santorini, the Greek island, and when her rental car broke down in Portugal on the way to the airport and she was stranded alone on the side of the road on a Sunday morning in a country where she didn’t speak the language.

“In many ways, writing it was very cathartic,” she said. “The book is a collection of my real-life adventures, starting with the St. Lawrence Church fire and its impact on my wedding.

“There’s something about the act of writing that made it easier for me to see the patterns in my life more clearly and really come to terms with them,” said Braca, adding that, for example, while she wishes her ex-husband had handled the split differently, she is grateful he left.

“It has become very clear to me how much happier I am when I am single,” she said.

The book can be purchased via IndieGogo through April 30 by visiting https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-other-half-of-single-by-sara-braca#/ . Her instagram address is @sara_braca_author

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com