Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Sweeping Novel in Italy and America

In many ways this is your typical story of an immigrant coming to America and trying to pave their way to success. While there are some of the events and sequences that you would expect in a tale like this, the author tells the story magnificently and I was able to easily forgive any predictability.

The story focuses on the two story lines that will eventually merge. First there are the two boys, left at a convent in Italy when their mother feels she has no choice as she has become a young widow without any means to support them. Eduardo and Ciro are exceptionally close brother, who are as different in personality as can be, and find comfort and a life with the nuns who take them in. There is also the story of Enza, a girl that lives up on the mountain with her large family who are forging their living with their father's work transporting people and goods with his horse and carriage.

Ciro and Enza's stories intersect on several occasions, beginning with Ciro's mother leaving the convent after dropping off her boys by Enza's father's carriage. Later, Enza's youngest sister dies suddenly from an unexplained fever and Ciro is the one that climbs the mountain to dig her grave. Even in this dark period of grief, Enza is touched by Ciro and so begins her lifelong attraction and connection with him. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that obviously someone ends up becoming the shoemaker's wife.

As in every immigrant story, there is a reason or motivation for those to venture to America. Both Ciro and Enza come to the United States for very different reasons and through a series of events connect again over time.

This is a long book that covers Enza and Ciro's separate lives in Italy before they immigrate, their travels to America, and their acclimation to this country and how they build their own lives. While it is very long, it is also enjoyable, and in a lot of ways is really ultimately a love story between two people. What makes it different in some ways is that it's like real life, where not everything is neatly wrapped up in a bow and the people are not perfect. Ciro is often a little selfish and can something of a womanizer, which makes him wait much longer to finally commit to Enza. Enza is very headstrong and is able to make something of herself because of her perseverance and talents but in the end doesn't continue to pursue her artistry.

All in all I found this a very enjoyable book. I found myself sneaking off to read it, and staying up well past midnight one night to finish it. I hear she has many more books so I will be researching Adriana Trigiani.

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