The Shoemaker’s Wife
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Bestselling author Adriana Trigiani’s newest novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife, is like devouring a chocolate cake with tons of icing. One must first slice through her extensive, but rich, details ranging from the architectural design of the New York Metropolitan Opera House to a Serbian dinner party in Minnesota before reaching the heart of her dramatic story inspired by her Italian grandparents who migrated to the United States at the turn of the century.
It begins in the Italian Alps, after Caterina Lazzari’s husband has died while working in an iron ore mine in Minnesota. Desperately poor, she abandons her two sons, Eduardo and Ciro, at a Catholic convent. Eduardo aspires to become a priest, while handsome Ciro seeks adventure and romance.
Trigiani plots the novel’s suspense around Ciro and Enza, a young girl from a nearby village whom he encounters for the first time when he is paid to dig her young sister’s grave. Shortly after their meeting Ciro is shipped to America after exposing a priest’s love affair. Enza’s family, facing the loss of their home, agree Enza and her father should go the United States and find work. In the U.S. Ciro’s and Enza’s lives continuously intersect, at a hospital, the shoe shop where he is apprenticed, and outside the church hours before she is prepared to marry a man in “the top tier of high society.”
Trigiani’s sincere portrayal of the immigrants’ sea voyages, their processing at Ellis Island, and life in the Iron Range mining district in Minnesota where Ciro and Enza settle, is simply riveting. The author vividly describes the internal struggles of immigrants–homesickness, separation from family and concentrated efforts to preserve culture and mark traditions, as exemplified in a celebration staged in traditional costumes and music by a Serbian family, “…an all-day, through-the-night party, serving homemade plum brandy and robust cherry wine, glasses refilled without requests.”
The icing, it turns out, is just as as tasty as Trigiani’s literary cake.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla