The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

As this novel begins in 1905, Ciro Lazzari is ten years old.  His father, who left their home in the mountains of Italyshoemakers to earn money in the mines of Minnesota, has apparently died in a mining accident.  His mother, devastated by grief and without either the strength or the financial resources to care for Ciro and his older brother Eduardo, leaves them in the care of the nuns at the local convent.

Five miles away, Enza Ravanelli, the oldest child in a loving but poor family, is busy helping her parents.  As Trigiani writes, “The eldest daughter in a family with many children never has a real childhood.”

The novel, inspired by Trigiani’s family history, tells how these two children grow up to come to the United States and marry each other.

I became so immersed in the lives of the characters that I wanted to read quickly, but because of the excellent writing and detailed descriptions, I was reluctant to miss a single word.  This is a touching love story, but it’s also a picture of everyday life in northern Italian villages in the early years of the 20th century and in an Italian convent, of immigrant life in Manhattan, of the Metropolitan Opera house in the days of the great Caruso (who is a character in the novel), and of the experiences of a soldier fighting for the U.S. in World War I.

This has been a very popular novel, but it’s finally been in the library long enough not to have a long waiting list.  If you read it, I think you’ll understand why so many people have been interested in it!

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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