Title: The Shoemaker’s Wife
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher for a tour with TLC Book Tours
First line: The scalloped hem of Caterina Lazzari’s blue velvet coat grazed the fresh-fallen snow, leaving a pale pink path on the bricks as she walked across the empty piazza.
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.
The front cover flap – and several reviews – say that The Shoemaker’s Wife is the book that Adriana Trigiani was born to write. When I see phrases like that in reviews, I always think, “Come on, isn’t that a bit over the top?” Well, in this case, it is right on the nose. Last year, I experienced Trigiani’s work for the first time, loving the Valentine series. Then I read Lucia, Lucia and it was amazing – I honestly thought there was no way she could top it. But the story of her grandparents and their immigration from Italy was the perfect inspiration for what I’m sure will be called her life’s work.
I read a lot of historical fiction, but every once in a while a book comes along that plunges me right into the time period, immersing me in the lives of the people, the places they inhabit. I could smell the air of the Italian Alps, taste the pasta, hear Caruso singing, feel the supple leather of the shoes Ciro made. There was not a single section that dragged, nor a single time I wasn’t eager to pick the book up and dive back in. When I finished the last page, it was with the kind of sadness I only experience when I know I am going to miss the world of a book terribly.
If you’ve read and loved Adriana Trigiani before, you will not want to miss her grandparents’ story. And if you haven’t, this is the book that will have you seeking out her entire backlist. I can say nothing more except that you must read this book.