It is the night that will change everything in shoemaker Valentine Roncalli's life. On this Christmas Eve, handsome native Italian Gianluca Vechiarelli has asked Italian-American Valentine to marry him, and she has accepted. Gianluca is a master artist leather tanner, so it seems to Valentine to be the perfect match in all ways, even though he is 18 years older than she is, has been previously married, and has a grown daughter. The fact that Gianluca's father is married to Valentine's grandmother adds a certain quirky twist to the family tree, but certainly doesn't bother either Valentine or Gianluca.
They have managed to overcome the fact that their engagement evening got off to a rocky start, with Valentine's soon-to-be fiancé encountering Valentine comforting her close friend, Bret. Now Valentine warns Gianluca about the maelstrom soon to come, as they meet up with her boisterous family. Her sister Tess's house is decked out, to the max, for the holiday, and --- no surprise to Valentine --- the place is in an uproar, with one brother-in-law announcing he's been laid off and elderly Aunt Feen calling him a loser. Happily, Valentine and Gianluca quell the brouhaha with their news. The formerly battling relatives are instantly joined in joy, rejoicing that nearly-40-year-old Valentine has beaten the odds and won't remain a spinster. Of course, Valentine's mother has been unleashed, instantly ready to plan out an extremely elaborate wedding.
"THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY is a diverting read, ultimately delivering a powerful emotional punch, enhanced by Adriana Trigiani's charming writing style."
Valentine, though hoping for sedate nuptials, is pulled into her mother's preparations. The wedding date will be February 14th, which accelerates the frenzy. Despite her mother's couture dreams, Valentine has ideas of her own as to what her wedding gown will be. Of course, real life being what it is, her romantic daydreams are frequently interrupted with concerns. Some of the problems are not surprising, considering the cultural differences between Valentine and her intended. Gianluca has issues with Valentine working with Bret, which makes the situation at Valentine's family shoemaking business awkward since Bret is their financial expert. Although the difference in ages doesn't trouble Valentine, others (including Gianluca) refer to it often. In addition, Gianluca has made it clear that he prefers to live in Italy, but Valentine is a businesswoman through and through. She can't leave the shop and must stay in New York --- a view that leads to heated discussions with Gianluca, warning her that if she sacrifices living for work, she'll be unhappy, while Valentine doesn't feel that she needs to choose between work and life.
In spite of their differences, February 14th and what Valentine calls "the world's fair of weddings" looms ever closer. When the day finally arrives, Valentine is filled with joy, even as two guests give her news that will impact her life and her business in profound ways. Now it is up to Valentine to pick her way carefully along the tightrope between her role as "wife" and that of "businesswoman."
THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY is a diverting read, ultimately delivering a powerful emotional punch, enhanced by Adriana Trigiani's charming writing style. I have to confess that I have not read the first two books in this trilogy (I know! Where have I been?), and so I was a bit lost at some of the references here. While I found the plot to lag a bit when discussing Valentine's business, established fans of the series are likely to be much more interested, since they're already invested in Valentine's life. For these reasons, I think it would be worthwhile to consider reading the trilogy from the beginning, which should be three books worth of pure pleasure. However, even as a behind-the-times Valentine newbie, I enjoyed this book (it’s so easy to see why Trigiani is a bestselling author), particularly the depictions of Valentine's relatives, which are genius: hilarious and poignant.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on December 1, 2013