by Adriana Trigiani
Published April 3rd 2012 by Harper
The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker’s Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.
This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, Lucia, The Shoemaker’s Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.
After I finished this book, I turned to my husband and said, “I think this is the saddest book I have ever read.” He replied, “Well I did have to keep handing you Kleenex.” It’s true, I cried so much during this book that I gave myself a headache. Ms. Trigiani made the story so moving and so believable that I felt all the emotions that the characters were feeling throughout the story, and even though I cried, this is a good thing.
The plot kept me thoroughly engaged the entire time; I could barely put the book down. I wanted to see what would happen next for Ciro and Enza. I can’t really say this book had a happy ending; it was a totally different ending than I would have expected. It is not at all your traditional love story, though it is one overall. The plot has many twists and turns and a bunch of times you just want to yell at Ciro, “Wake up you fool, what are you thinking!” Ms. Trigiani wrote an amazing book about love, friendship, war, immigrants in America, and loss. I am in love. This is one of my favorite books I have read recently. It was moving and powerful. It was sad and happy at the same time.
Ms. Trigiani wrote a magnificent piece on the trials and tribulations of Italian Immigrants who came to America in the early 1900’s, one of my favorite topics since I am an IBM (Italian by marriage) and grew up in NYS where the Italian influence is still strong today. Many of the foods Enza talked about made me smile and think of my husband’s Sicilian family and the recipes I was given by them, some on our wedding day, like the “famous” chocolate cinnamon clove cookies that have been in his family for generations, and the ones I was allowed to have once we moved away and I had proven myself an adequate cook, such as cutlets. Reading this book also made me very hungry for food I have either had to learn to make myself, or go without since we moved away, such as gnocchi, though we make ours in red sauce. Oh and I do know how to pronounce gnocchi properly even though I am German, it was part of my unofficial Italian education upon marriage.
I highly recommend this book to anyone. There is a tiny bit of sex, but it is not graphic and they are married if that makes a difference. This book gives the reader a view of life for an immigrant that is filled with history, but is not written in a history book style. This book is a love story, but is also filled with much sadness and has many ups and down, emotionally, throughout the story. This is a great book to take on a vacation, but it is not an entirely lighthearted read, it makes you think a bit. Make sure to keep the tissues close by.
I received this book as an ARC. I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy.
Please read more of my reviews on my blog: sarahereads(dot)wordpress(dot)com
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