Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers

by Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani's many fans won't be surprised to learn how the
strength, support and inspiration she has gleaned from her beloved
grandmothers inform her work. In these stories, we meet the ladies
themselves: Lucy (Lucia Spada Bonicelli) and Viola (Yolanda Perin
Trigiani). Lucy and Viola possessed many strengths and talents,
both similar and complementary, for their granddaughter to admire
and emulate. It's a pleasure to learn of their lives through these
lively, descriptive and heartfelt anecdotes.

Lucy's story begins as the eldest of eight children, living in
the Italian Alps. The family fell upon hard times. Their
circumstances were so dire, in fact, that Lucy offered to travel
with her father to the United States to find work. They planned to
send money home and then eventually return to buy a house that
would make the family secure. When she finally arrived here, Lucy
found a job in a mill operating a sewing machine that paid $2 a
week. She also met her future husband, a handsome shoemaker named
Carlo Bonicelli. Theirs was not only a love match; they were a
working team, with Carlo opening a shoe shop while Lucy ran her own
dressmaking business. When Lucy was just 35, she was a widow.
Still, she managed to raise a family and send her children to
college by selling factory-made shoes and by sewing and altering
garments. Although she had no blood relations nearby, she built a
community of friends who were always available for her and her

Yolanda Trigiani was called Viola --- except for the business
she owned with her husband, "The Yolanda Manufacturing Company."
She grew up on a farm and always believed in a productive but
gracious home life. Even as she kept a perfect home, she ran her
business in a constant quest for flawlessness. Like Lucy, Yolanda
began working in a factory at a young age. As a testament to her
drive, she ably made the leap from working girl to eventually
owning her own factory. Viola was an ambitious, hard-working
businesswoman, determined that their business would succeed.
Details about the workings of the factory are quite

Trigiani's love, respect and admiration for Lucy and Viola are
obvious in her warm and descriptive writing. She tells us that
Viola's urgency, passion and dedication are qualities that she
draws upon for her writing. As a legacy from both grandmothers, she
learned how to parent (some of those child-rearing theories, such
as the admonition not to be a child's friend, are intriguingly
contrary to many popular notions). She also draws on their examples
of how to maintain friendships and how to be a valuable part of the
community. Each grandmother, although constantly busy, managed to
make time for a personal spiritual quest. This inspires their
granddaughter, who describes her own feelings about religion and
spirituality in an absorbing essay.

While DON'T SING AT THE TABLE is sure to appeal to Adriana
Trigiani's fans, it should also attract new readers who have yet to
discover the delights of a Trigiani novel. These lucky souls are
likely to be struck by the generous spirit of the author, who
invites us into her family so that we, too, can enrich our lives by
gleaning wisdom from these remarkable women. Lucy and Viola would
certainly approve.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon ( on January 21, 2011

Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers
by Adriana Trigiani

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2010
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061958948
  • ISBN-13: 9780061958946