Judie's Reviews > The Shoemaker's Wife

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
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Aug 29, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

The main characters in this book are born in the Italian Alps at the end of the nineteenth century. It could just as easily been the story of two people from almost any ethnic group.
They meet when they are teenagers, then lose and find each other several times in Italy and in America.
Enza, the eldest of six children, is a seamstress who comes to America with her father to help earn enough money so they can build a house for their family and return to Italy.
Ciro's mother left him and his older brother at a convent after the death of their father because she was unable to care for them on her own. The two boys live there very happily until circumstances sends the older son to a monestary and the younger one to America.
The plot is the way both of them manage to thrive in a new environment by using and developing their talents. Ciro is apprenticed to a shoemaker. Enza works for The Metropolitan Opera and Enrico Caruso.
Throughout their lives, each meets people who become very close and influential friends.
The book romanticizes the pure beauty of the small villages in the Italian Alps. It presents diverse viewpoints about the Catholic church. At times, the story becomes somewhat pedestrian and repetitious. Enza is too perfect. How many times do we have to read about them eating bread, mozzarella, tomato and basil?
I noticed a few possible anachronisms: Lucite wasn't around in the early twentieth century and men didn't wear wedding rings until around World War II. These didn't really take away from the story.
There were two quotes I really liked:
It's 1910 in New York City and an immigrant, just off the boat is being driven in a carriage through Little Italy. "The modest buildings...were potchkied together like a pair of patchwork pants.".
Speaking about the possibility of a high class family accepting a working girl as the wife of their son, a woman states, "When it comes to high society, the only things they mix are their drinks."
The book is quite readable and presents a fairly accurate picture of life for immigrants in the USA during that time.
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