Evening Class by Maeve Binchy. I'm listing it as the 17th book I read this year, but really I'm just writing about it now since I've already passed it on and I don't want to forget about it. My mom read it years ago, and when I told her how good it was, she decided to read it again. I'm listing it as a 'book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you.'
While this book was really all about the characters, the one who tied them all together was Signora. Formerly Nora O'Donaghue, she left Ireland to move to Italy and follow her true love in her 20s - and stayed through her 30s and beyond while her love married the woman he was always expected to marry and raise a family with.
It's only a slight spoiler to say she ends up back in Ireland, and is excited to teach an evening class of Italian language and culture. The book gives the stories of the attendees and those they are close to, and how amazingly all their lives seem to intersect.
While I definitely had a couple favorite character stories, there really weren't any that I didn't like. For a relatively busy book, there weren't any notable parts that I didn't like. I would recommend this as a great book to read to pass the time. But if I recall correctly, most Maeve Binchy books would fall in this category. She has the ability to make me feel as if I'm reading about another life I could have chosen to live. Great escapism, and I'm usually left with a smile on my face.