Friends of the Library Book Club

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Club is reading The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. Join them on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. to be part of the discussion; everyone is invited to join the group!
At first glance, there seems to be a disconnect between the sturdy, simple title of Adriana Trigiani’s new novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife, and the breathlessly gorgeous photo that graces the book’s cover. It ran in Harper’s Bazaar in 1949 and its model, decked out in a strapless, fiery red gown, is the epitome of sophistication.
But within the pages of this novel, Trigiani’s 10th, is a gloriously romantic yet sensible world that seamlessly blends practicality and beauty.
The novel’s real-life back story is as arresting as the one Trigiani creates. It’s inspired by the love between the author’s grandparents, who grew up in the Northern Alps of Italy but did not meet until they emigrated to the United States. That’s the gem of an idea that Trigiani nurtured in her imagination for more than two decades before she put it on paper.
The Shoemaker’s Wife begins in the Northern Alps in 1905 and follows the lives of Ciro and Eduardo Lazzari, brothers who grew up in a convent because their widowed mother could not care for them. It’s also the story of Enza Ravanelli and her big-hearted family whose financial struggles come to a fateful bend in the road when Enza decides to go to America to earn money. She would not know until a chance meeting in New York that Ciro, a boy she kissed and thought never to see again, had also traveled to America to seek his fortune.
What transpires is a classic immigrant success story, but the tale of Enza and Ciro transcends the commonplace because of their great love. It’s a love so big that Enza, whose seamstress skills have earned her a spot creating costumes for the Metropolitan Opera House’s biggest stars, gives up her dream job. She leaves a fiancé at the altar and marries Ciro. They move to Minnesota, where he makes shoes for working men.
Like other period pieces set pre- and post-World War I (think Downton Abbey) that are capturing our imagination, The Shoemaker’s Wife is built around the staggering cultural and social changes the war years swept in. In America, the flood of mostly European immigrants changed the country’s look and landscape.
You don’t need to have an immigrant family history to adore this novel — it ranks as one of Trigiani’s very best. You only need a deep appreciation for exquisite writing and a story enriched by the power of abiding love.  (USA TODAY review by Carol Memmott, 4/1/2012)

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