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The Good Left Undone


The Good Left Undone

Matelda Cabrelli Roffo is getting old. Although she likes a fight, she is not ready to face her mortality, especially since she feels there is still more for her to accomplish. She would like to share her family stories --- not only her history, but also that of her mother’s. The Cabrellis, who have lived and worked in the coastal town of Viareggio in Italy for generations, are a family of stonecutters and jewelers. Matelda also wants to tell the stories of the people who have been part of the business.

"There are many reasons to love this novel --- the incredible characters, the rich family history woven throughout, the beautiful setting --- but first among them is the story that Trigiani tells."

When Matelda’s granddaughter, Anina, who is engaged to be married, comes by the house to look at jewelry for the wedding, she starts asking questions about some of the pieces and learns that her grandmother is hiding a story. Matelda, who never wants to be far from home, was born in Scotland and didn’t come to Viareggio until she was five years old. Her mother, Domenica, who was a nurse living in France and Scotland during World War II, met her first husband, a Scottish naval officer, at a hospital in France. Shortly after they were married, he was killed in action, and Domenica spent the rest of the war in Scotland waiting to return home. More importantly, she wanted Matelda to finally meet the Cabrellis and get acquainted with Viareggio.

As Matelda’s health continues to decline, she finds herself thinking more about the past, her mother and the strange ways in which families are built over time. At the urging of Anina, she begins to tell those stories, surfacing old hurts along with the joys. She realizes that some things she never thought she needed to say truly do need to be said --- such as telling a loved one how much you adore them --- and that it does make a difference in the end. Anina also comes to a revelation of her own that helps her understand what she wants and needs out of life.

THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE is a family story, a love story, that moves across generations and does not change as much as the women in the novel would like. They are all facing the same issues in different settings --- questions about love and life that are never-ending. Matelda, who would be the first to tell someone she is a difficult person, is also the first to see and understand the problems that her granddaughter is wrestling with. At the same time, Matelda’s daughter, Nicolina, is struggling with her mother’s mortality and is stressed by the pace that her life and those in it dictate for her.

Despite the numerous obstacles they had to face, the Cabrelli women retained their strength and determination. From Domenica to Anina, they all dealt with the realities of being a woman in the world but also persevered by relying on each other and those who became their family over the years. I also must point out that the way Adriana Trigiani describes Viareggio, the surrounding scenery and the food will make you want to search for flights to Italy. If she ever put out a companion book of Matelda’s recipes, I would be adding it to my shelf immediately.

There are many reasons to love this novel --- the incredible characters, the rich family history woven throughout, the beautiful setting --- but first among them is the story that Trigiani tells. We get to experience the lives of several generations of Cabrellis, illustrating how the war impacted so many and how the families of Viareggio came together. It’s a wonderful book that may just resurrect that travel bug, and perhaps some family stories as well.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on April 29, 2022

The Good Left Undone
by Adriana Trigiani

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 0593183347
  • ISBN-13: 9780593183342