At the turn of the century in the Italian Alps, young brothers Ciro and Eduardo Lazzari are taken in by a group of benevolent nuns after the boys’ mentally unstable mother is unable to care for them. In a village not far away, Enza Ravanelli lives a poor but contented life, until the death of her infant sister Stella plunges the family into grief. When Ciro is sent to dig a grave for Stella, he is struck by Enza’s beauty and courage, but his life in the Italian Alps is about to change as he is forced to flee his foster home.
"From the exquisite cover through the book’s almost 500 pages, Trigiani captures the essence of the turn-of-the-20th century immigrant experience with beauty, compassion and grace. THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE is an evocative tale of adversity, determination, family, faith and fate with the right touches of romance and wonder."
Ciro has witnessed an indiscretion by the village’s powerful and amoral monsignor. To protect his reputation, the monsignor banishes both Ciro and Eduardo from the convent that has been their home since their mother abandoned them. Ciro is to be sent to a reform school, while Eduardo follows his calling to become a priest and enters a seminary in Rome. In a brave act of disobedience to the monsignor’s authority, one of the nuns secretly makes arrangements for Ciro to seek a new life in America as a shoemaker’s apprentice.
A few years later, Enza and her father embark on a journey to the United States. Their voyage across the Atlantic to America is long --- and almost deadly for Enza. Upon arriving in New York, she is rushed to a hospital to recover from her near-fatal illness. Fate intervenes as the two young Italian immigrants meet again briefly when Ciro is treated at the same hospital for a wounded hand.
Although their occupations and circumstances lead them in different directions, their strong attraction remains. While Ciro masters the shoemaking trade in New York, Enza toils as a seamstress in New Jersey. Her needlework skills create bigger opportunities in New York, where she has an auspicious encounter with the larger-than-life tenor, Enrico Caruso. With the intense patriotism of a new immigrant, Ciro enlists in the Army and is sent off to fight in World War I.
THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE is a heartfelt novel chronicling the lives of two Italian peasants whose destinies intersect in a strange and beautiful way. This historical work of fiction takes readers from the Italian Alps, to New York’s Little Italy, to Hoboken, New Jersey, to the war-ravaged fields of France during World War I and the Iron Range of Minnesota. The epic saga starts off a bit slowly as the characters and their circumstances are revealed, but once Ciro and Enza reach America, their adventures propel the story forward.
Rich historical details, memorable characters, vivid and sensual description, powerful emotions and strong images enhance Adriana Trigiani’s stirring novel, which is based on her own family history. From the exquisite cover through the book’s almost 500 pages, Trigiani captures the essence of the turn-of-the-20th century immigrant experience with beauty, compassion and grace. THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE is an evocative tale of adversity, determination, family, faith and fate with the right touches of romance and wonder.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on April 5, 2012