Top positive review
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a taste of my own history
on April 26, 2012
To say that I loved reading this book is an understatement. It's a story that touched me deeply because it explores themes I am familiar with: the immigrant experience, the Italian setting, and characters that remind me of my own relatives. I savoured every page! I have read only one other book from Trigiani, which was Very Valentine, and although I enjoyed it, I found the storytelling and writing in The Shoemaker's Wife far superior.
This epic story begins in the early 1900s in the Italian Alps, where we first meet Enza and Ciro who are children. Enza is raised in a loving family while Ciro is left with his brother at a convent to be raised by nuns. Ciro and Enza meet as teenagers and form a bond when they share a deeply moving experience, but shortly after Ciro must leave the mountain against his will to set sail for America where he learns the trade of a shoemaker. Enza also travels to America and works hard to send money home to her family, eventually making a career as a seamstress. She and Ciro briefly meet again in America, but only come together years later after World War I.
Trigiani's skill as a writer is clearly shown as she deftly takes us from the fresh Italian Alps to bustling Little Italy in New York City at the turn of the century, to the glamorous Metropolitan Opera House and later to Minnesota. I enjoyed every setting and found the events flowed smoothly in this novel. Rich with details and believable characters, I was transported to a different era, to a time when my own great-grandfather sailed a ship that took him from Italy to Boston.
I smiled and I cried (no, I bawled toward the end of the story) as I was so invested in the lives of all the characters, from the loving nuns in the village of Schilpario, Italy to Caruso at the Opera House. I loved both Enza and Ciro's story. They were so well-developed and real to me. Ciro was wonderfully flawed, but Enza seemed so perfect. She could do anything it seemed, but I loved her anyway because she had strength of character and was loyal. Ciro had a great sense of humour and Trigiani beautifully transforms him from an innocent teen to a man who knew exactly what he wanted in life and went after it. Oh, and shall I mention all the food descriptions of homemade gnocchi, freshly-churned butter and cream, and chestnuts that made my mouth water?
For me this book brought back memories of chatting late into the night with my Nonna in Rome when I was a teenager myself. She would tell me about her childhood growing up in a noble family in Naples and how she left home as a young woman because she could not get along with her stepmother. The story of Enza and Ciro made me appreciate what my grandparents and parents went through to forge a life for us here in North America. Truly, any Italian descendant living in North America could relate to the story of The Shoemaker's Wife, based on the love story of Trigiani's own grandparents.
I consider this to be one of the best books I've read in 2012 and highly recommend it for all who love a good old-fashioned and moving saga.