Good Minds Suggest—Adriana Trigiani's Favorite Books About Families

April, 2012
Adriana Trigiani Adriana Trigiani spent more than 25 years ruminating a book idea—a romantic saga inspired by how her grandparents met and almost lost each other. In the interim she penned 13 other titles (including Big Stone Gap, Lucia, Lucia, and Very Valentine) and raised a family until she finally felt ready to write this sprawling, personal work, The Shoemaker's Wife. The historical novel follows Enza and Ciro in 1905 from the Italian Alps to New York City's Little Italy, where Enza becomes a seamstress for the Metropolitan Opera and Ciro volunteers for World War I. The prolific Italian American author tells Goodreads, "A family is a configuration, and no two are identical. But the goals are similar—we're all attempting to lock arms and make it through." Here are Trigiani's favorite books about family life.

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
"This is the story of the Soames family in Missouri, a portrait of farm and family life in middle America during the first half of the 20th century. A stealth novel, it grips you from the first page and calls upon the emotions you felt when first reading Pride and Prejudice about a family of sisters. But this novel, alas, is the American version—four headstrong daughters who grow up connected and yet yearn to break free of the emotional ties that keep them on the farm that shackles them. This story could only happen in America, where we are groomed to believe anything is possible—even for a girl. Tragic and yet resplendent, this book delivers."


Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
"A novel about the notion of family and one woman's (Nellie Forbush) prejudices that keep her from joining one. Emile de Beque has mixed-race children, and the shiny penny from America's South can't accept their color. But true love prevails when Nellie grows up and finds happiness. This is a delicious novel, with potent threads and small story lines that build beautifully to a spectacular finish, a novel that still resonates with step-families and contemporary definitions of family. And when you've read it, you can watch the Rodgers and Hammerstein version called South Pacific."


A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
"Two sisters have to deal with their aging widower father's desire to marry a big-busted beauty from the Ukraine that he met via an advertisement. This is a tale of a family coming together after the loss of a mother, who clearly was the reasonable center of the family. An immigrant tale (they live in England but emigrated from the Ukraine) with a contemporary spin, it hits all the best notes about dealing with aging parents and navigating sibling rivalries while healing old wounds."


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
"Cassandra wants to be a writer. She lives with her family in a dilapidated castle in England, recording all the hurts and losses she has endured while sorting through her first love. The family character portraits are so fresh in this novel, including a sparkling and often disturbing dramatization of a stepmother who cares more about herself than the new family she joins. A classic—deservedly so."


Toast by Nigel Slater
"I include one memoir, because truthfully, this book reads like a novel. I read it on a flight back from a book tour in the UK, fresh from rolling green hills, castle tours, and Irish teas before the fire. I was in the mood for Nigel Slater and his very British view of the world from his mother's kitchen. He wrote so beautifully and humorously about his birth mother's inability to cook that you will laugh until you cry. When food becomes the glue of his new family after the death of his mother, a reinvention of what makes a family is defined and then redefined. A jewel."



Comments (showing 1-18)




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message 18: by DeAnn (new)

DeAnn Thanks for the ideas for books I need to read, Adrianna! The only two books I've not read on your list are the Moonflower Vine and a Short History of Tractors, so I will have to go to the library this week and find them! I have already ordered your wonderful new book, the Shoemaker's Wife, and I plan on digging right into it the moment it arrives on my doorstep! I love your work, and eagerly await each new book you create. Thank you for your fine writing and wonderful characters.
You're the best!


message 17: by Edel (new)

Edel Thanks for the recommendations Adrianna .I love books with strong female characters ( Alot of the reason I enjoy your books so much).I have read half of the books mentioned above and look forward to reading the other half now. Looking forward to reading your newest book . I have collected all your books and enjoyed them all, they are now very well thumned!!! Have a great day xxxx


message 16: by BoekenTrol (new)

BoekenTrol Found this page of GR through twitter... Thanks for attending me to it.
Thank you, Adriana, for sharing your favorite family books. They all look interesting: Marina Lewycka I have on my TBR, the others are new. I think some of them will be added to that list or my wishlist too:-)


message 15: by Cindy (new)

Cindy I have enjoyed so many of Adriana's books. I was so excited to hear of this new book! it will be a definite purchase!


message 14: by Patty (new)

Patty I'm so glad to see a mention for The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. My Mom and sisters all loved this book.


message 13: by doug (new)

doug bowman I always think John Irving's novels are so evocative of family dynamics.


message 12: by Catherine (new)

Catherine I was thinking the same thing and agree wholeheartedly


message 11: by Mireya (new)

Mireya Thanks for the list Adriana! Books about families are my favourite :)


message 10: by Kkoenig (new)

Kkoenig I have your new book in my hot little hands. Can't wait to break it open. Thanks for the Family List. It will help me make decisions for future reads.


message 9: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Just finished Swamplandia and loved it! A portrait of a family dissintigrating and getting pulled back together and beautifully written!. Ava Bigtree, one of the narrators reminds me of one of my all time favorite characters, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird.


message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I love big famial dramas and would add, The Shark Diaries by Kiana Davenport.


message 7: by Christy Lynn (new)

Christy Lynn Wilson I am nearly finished listening to the audio book of The Shoemaker's Wife and I'm loving it.

Don't forget about Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns in your list of family-centered reads! An oldie but a goodie!


message 6: by Dianna (new)

Dianna Thank you very much for these suggestions! It's sparking my desire to read again, as I haven't taken the time to do it in a while!


message 5: by Jeanene (new)

Jeanene Boucher I became a fan many years ago. I was visiting a friend in northeast Tennessee and walked into a bookstore where your first two novels were displayed. Since then I have read each one, waiting eagerly then for the next publication from Ms. "T". I continue to enjoy them as much as I did the first two.


message 4: by Super (new)

Super Thanks for the recommendations! I love your books and look forward to reading your newest one.


message 3: by Lemuel (new)

Lemuel Thanks for the recommendations Adrianna .I love books with strong female characters ( Alot of the reason I enjoy your books so much).I have read half of the books mentioned above and look forward to reading the other half now. Looking forward to reading your newest book .here in kenya we have big problems of women beating and even killing their husband to gain weath and all inheritance could u thing to write the same and shear.thanks a lot long life as you change the social culture of human being.

Patrick lemuel.


message 2: by Laura Lee (new)

Laura Lee Just bought the new book this week, looking forward to reading it this weekend!


message 1: by Julie (new)

Julie Love all these recommendations. I've read 3 of them and now look forward to the others. Have loved all Adriana's books. She has a unique style that draws you in so that you feel part of the stories.


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