THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani was a Christmas gift from my husband. I put it on my list. So many people have recommended it, I just had to read it. Plus, I saw that it takes place in a part of Italy I have not visited. It also takes place in the U.S.
It is said that Adriana Trigiani was born to write this novel. She has used her grandparents history as fuel for the story. It is definitely her best novel yet.
The premise for the story reminded me of another story: ELIZABETH STREET by Laurie Fabiano. But this one is unique. They both stand alone.
Our story begins on a snowy day in 1905, high in the Italian Alps. 32 year-old Catherina, a young widow with two small sons, is embarking on a journey that will change the lives of her family forever. She is entrusting the boys to the sisters of San Nicola. Out of her mind with grief and not having any other options, she has decided she can no longer care for her children who she loves more than life itself. Ciro and Eduardo thrive under the wings of the nuns. But will their mother return for them as she promised?
Nearby, a girl named Enza lives with her many brothers and sisters, farther up the mountain. When Enza loses her young sister, it is Ciro who arrives to help with the burial. He’s been hired to dig the grave. And thus, the two meet.
But what will come of these three young people? Eduardo clings to God and pursues a life of service. Ciro is suddenly tossed a ferocious challenge and travels across the ocean to America. And Enza and her father do the only thing they can to provide for their family: they go to America to make their mark, sending most of their earnings home so the family can build their own home and eat to live.
I have to be careful here because I don’t wish to tell too much. But I must say this is the basis for a bold love story. At the back of the book there are photos of Trigiani’s family. And she tells of visiting the mountain her grandparents came from in Italy. So much good stuff to use in her novel.
I always have a hard time picturing the crossings of the oceans when the poor were stuffed into steerage. It’s a wonder more didn’t perish. I have crossed the Atlantic twice on board ships. Both times were in springtime. I have heard the winter crossings are especially harsh. We had some rough conditions, but ships are built sturdier now and no one is in “steerage.”
Enza ends up working at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC. She designs and sews costumes for Caruso. I love the way the opera is put in play here. Trigiani will have you eager to listen to the unbelievable voice of the great Enrico Caruso.
This story travels across America to Minnesota at some point. You get a real sense of the rawness of this area at that point in time. And a new beginning.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I am always fascinated with Italy. And I love hearing about the plight of the immigrant in NYC in the early 1900′s. And don’t we all love a really strong love story! This novel has all these things plus a cast of warm characters who will be there waiting until you pick this fine book back up to read it again sometime soon.
This book was under my Christmas tree this year.