Thunder is rumbling outside, and I have sissy-la-la Jinxy shaking in my lap as I write this. All I’m missing is a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
Sometimes in your reading life, you almost forget that feeling of becoming so immersed and falling so in love with the characters and the story itself. Of course there have been plenty of good books that I’ve read over the past few years, but reading The Shoemaker’s Wife was an experience that I had been missing without even knowing it.
First of all, let me explain that I had never even heard of Adriana Trigiani (what kind of reader am I??) before receiving this book in a book exchange through Facebook last spring or summer. Talk about happy mail! The woman who sent the book to me included a little note: “Enjoy this book. It was wonderful!” but of course, I kept pushing it aside. Finally, I started a “book club” with two friends of mine at the beginning of this summer, and we added The Shoemaker’s Wife to our list. Thank. God.
The Shoemaker’s Wife centers around the lives of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazzari, who both grow up in neighboring villages in the mountains of northern Italy at the turn of the century. Ciro and Enza meet briefly when Ciro is sent to dig a grave in Enza’s village, and the two feel an instant connection. They are quickly separated when Ciro is sent to America as an apprentice to a shoemaker; he leaves with no word for Enza, and she knows she must forget about him. Not long after, Enza arrives in America herself, and after some struggle, she finds her calling as a seamstress for the opera singer Enrico Caruso at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. Enza’s and Ciro’s paths cross a few times over the years, and despite the feelings they have for each other, their lives keep taking them in different directions.
All right, I need to be honest and tell you that there is so much more I could add to that synopsis but I was afraid I would give too much away! Just do yourself a favor and go read this book!
This was truly one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, for so many reasons. There was enough conflict, but it never felt forced. I felt so connected to the characters and could so easily picture the mountains of Italy, as well as the shops and streets of New York City in the early twentieth century. And the food! It is a miracle that I didn’t run to the nearest Italian restaurant and stuff my face with delicious pasta dishes and mozzarella cheese every single day while I read this book. Let’s be honest, it’s another miracle that I didn’t jump on a plane with a one-way ticket to Italy.
The Shoemaker’s Wife was inspired by Adriana Trigiani’s own family history, and it certainly did feel like I was reading a true-life story of two people who came to America with dreams to help their families back home. This story was such a lovely tribute to those who left their families and all they ever knew at the turn of the century, to go to a brand new place to make a brand new life. This was a beautiful read.