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Monday, November 3, 2014

A Book Review of The Shoemaker's Wife

Last night I finished The Shoemaker’s Wife and fell apart.

I’ve been crying all day over fictional characters.
Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli.  My, did I grow to love them.

The Shoemaker’s Wife starts in 1905 in the Italian Alps on a mountain top when the two Lazzari brothers are left by their widowed mother as orphans in a convent.   The story moves along as a sermon with highs and lows of personal trial and unspeakable strength for these young men.  Reverently stirring, you eventually meet the Ravanelli family and their oldest daughter Enza.  At the burial of her baby sister Stella, Enza meets a young gravedigger named Ciro Lazzari and here starts their love story. 

Author Trigiani perfectly captures the hard work and innovation of the immigrant character in the early 1900’s. She does this like a dancer moving around a staged scene; emphasizing certain parts of the characters strengths and weaknesses at just the right points.  She portrays an immigrant who cherishes the tradition of her old country, but loves the freedoms of her new America.  Self-reliance, religion and family are the motivation behind sacrifices and an uncertain future with WWI threatening all they’ve worked for.  I can’t believe The Shoemaker’s Wife is a true story.  There is so much depth and drama, usually not captured when one is writing about her grandparents lives.  I think we see our ancestors of the past as different from us and we can’t relate to them, but Trigiani is right inside her grandmother’s heart and mind.  She really knows her and that allows us the same privilege. 

 (a photo I found of little Italy here)

Author Trigiani shows there is a strength that comes from really knowing the trials, sacrifices and strengths of those you come from; plus it helps she’s a great writer.  Here's just a small sample of her delicious words.  

“Every son thinks his mother is beautiful, even when she isn’t.”

“The eldest daughter in a family with many children never has a real childhood.”

“There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those who want to know the facts, and those who want to make up a nice story to feel better.”

“”If you look around to find meaning in everything that happens, you will end up disappointed.”

“A shoemaker’s children never go barefoot.”

“It seemed to Ciro that so much of life was about not holding on, but letting go . . .”

My mind stirred with imagery of early America.  One of my favorite scenes was Columbus Day in New York City Little Italy 1914.  Can you imagine being an Italian immigrant in America on Columbus Day?  The traditions and heritage rang strong through little Italy and they celebrated this Italian and American hero with much fanfare.  I'd never envisioned such a thing.

I loved getting to know these beautiful Italian families and all they endured together.  I laughed out loud and at other times cried my eyes out.  It makes me curious about my own great-grandparents who migrated from Prussia (now Germany).  I have just one request - please turn this book into a movie.  I'll be the first one in line to see it!

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