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Let sorrow serve to galvanize, enrich life


By Beverly Meyer

TRUE TO FORM, Adriana Trigiani’s new book is another deeply engaging story, this time reaching back to the turn of the last century with an epic saga of immigration  and family ties.

Taking inspiration from Trigiani’s grandmother’s relocation from the Italian Alps to  New York City, “The Shoemaker’s Wife” tracks the parallel paths of fictional characters Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazzari.

Born and raised in poor villages in northern Italy, both knew the value of hard work, determination and family loyalty. Ciro, abandoned as a young orphan to be raised in a convent,  found good fortune in the affection and attention given him by the nuns. Tutored in  respect for hard work, fine manners and orderliness, he nevertheless retained a curiosity and zest for life.

Enza, eldest of six, was a child who never had a childhood; her sense of duty was formed early as she helped her father mind the simple cart and pony that together garnered subsistence for the family, and  her mother with the other children and the housework.

When one of her siblings dies unexpectedly, fate brings Ciro to Enza’s village  to dig the grave and Enza to the graveyard to grieve at twilight, the first of many times their paths will cross.

Circumstances change and  both, separately, find themselves crossing the Atlantic to find work in America. Ciro settles in Little Italy in New York City, apprenticed to a distant relative who makes his living as a shoemaker and appreciates his strong work ethic. “Ciro had entered the circus; the show was Italian, but the tent was American.”

Enza, not as lucky, works the night shift in a sewing factory and spends her days as a virtual slave to coarse and insensitive cousins in nearby Hoboken, N.J.

As World War I breaks out in Europe,  circumstances still keep these two on separate paths.

Rich in detail of times and places, “The Shoemaker’s Wife”  is a tale of poor but worthy immigrants seeking the American dream. Too, it is an ode to craftsmanship, tremendously rich in detail of the intricate work each character  performs to make his or her way in the new land.

The story,  years in the making, is an homage to Trigiani’s grandmother’s experiences in creating a life in America, and a testament of her grandparents’ romance that eventually emerged as a result of hard work and determination.

“The Shoemaker’s Wife” is another winner by this very popular author. Rich detail and  historical perspective are   sewn into an engrossing story.

Beverly Meyer is a copy editor for The Free Lance–Star.


By Adriana Trigiani

(Harper, $26.99, 475 pp.)


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