“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.”
Thoughts: Adriana Trigiani’s latest, The Shoemaker’s Wife, is a sweeping saga that takes readers from the Italian Alps to New York City to the bracing weather of the Minnesota iron range at the beginnings of the twentieth century. Twenty years in the making, it is the fictionalized story of her own grandparents’ love story. The story follows the lives of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazari, two children born in the Italian Alps and each of whom find their way to America. While there, they find success through hard work and each other through patience and a deep and poignant love. It sounds simple, but the ensuing story is just gorgeous in its scope.
A typical immigration story, both Enza and Ciro’s struggles put future generations to shame. Their childhood poverty, their amazing work ethic, and their willingness to sacrifice everything for family are certain characteristics that today’s generations simply cannot fathom. Working twelve hours days for minimal wages, going hungry to send money in support of family members – these are things today’s children have been taught not to accept. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, The Shoemaker’s Wife is a wonderful reminder of the steps the nation had to take to bring us to this point. It is the hard work and dedication of immigrants such as Enza and Ciro that provided future generations with the creature comforts and decent work environments that exist today. Yet, Ms. Trigiani does not preach her point. She lets Enza’s and Ciro’s actions speak for themselves, and readers will find themselves sitting up straighter and working harder out of deference to two such devoted characters.
Enza and Ciro are two characters that leap from the page. They are so well-written and realistic, there is no difficulty imagining them walking the streets of New York or picnicking on the banks of Minnesota lake. Ciro’s exuberance for life is intoxicating. He brings a smile to readers’ faces through his genuine good nature and enthusiasm, while his fears and worries become the readers’ own. Conversely, Enza’s practical nature and refined gentleness help readers strive to become better people. Her complete devotion to her family and the satisfaction she feels in making beautiful things and making others happy are inspiring. Their devotion to one another is simply beautiful. A reader feels privileged to be included in such a touching story about love and sacrifice.
For the audiobook , Ms. Trigiani freely admits to being actively involved its production. Since The Shoemaker’s Wife was a novel twenty years in the making, the audiobook experience had to be perfect and authentic to the story, hence the two narrators. Annabella Sciorra is the perfect choice for young Enza and Ciro. There is an innocence to her performance that mirrors their own relative inexperience in the world at large. When Ms. Trigiani takes over the narration, the listener knows that the story is about take a serious turn. Enza’s and Ciro’s world gets more complicated and more adult, and Ms. Trigiani’s voice reflects the wisdom that comes with experience. While Ms. Sciorra’s narration is all careful piety and youth, Ms. Trigiani’s narration embodies the family ideal. Of the two, Ms. Sciorra’s voice is the more pleasing to the ear, but one can understand and overlook the scratchiness of Ms. Trigiani’s voice and less-polished narration when one remembers how near and dear this story is to her.
Adriana Trigiani has not only done it again, she has far surpassed anything she has previously written. She not only captures the excitement and constant changes which define the new century, she infuses each location with reverence due to careful attention to detail and the ensuing absolutely breathtaking descriptions. The effort and care she took to recreate the stories told to her by family members shines from every page. Enza and Ciro embody the changing times with their endless energy, determination, and willingness to work. Their devotion to one another will bring readers to tears. The Shoemaker’s Wife is the type of novel which immerses readers so completely into its world that all other cares, worries, chores, and other demands of life fade to nonexistence. Like a good Italian meal, it demands to be savored and enjoyed slowly, allowing readers to absorb each delicious description and scene, and thoroughly enjoy it they will.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to Beth Harper and Harper Audio for my review copy!