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The Shoemaker's Wife: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, August 21, 2012
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Kathryn Stockett Interviews Adriana Trigiani
Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. The Help is her first novel.
Kathryn Stockett: This is by far your most epic novel to date. How long did it take you to write The Shoemaker’s Wife?
Adriana Trigiani: I worked on this story for over 20 years as I wrote scripts and novels and had my own family. There are scraps of paper, dinner napkins, and bills with timelines and notes scrawled across them. There are old notebooks filled with my grandmother’s musings from 1985. I collected train tickets, copies of ships’ manifests, and a silk tag with my grandmother’s name from garments she had created. I traveled as far as the Italian Alps and as close as the few blocks it takes me to walk to Little Italy in New York City to capture the historical aspects of the story. All of this went into the novel. It was a delicious gestation period.
Stockett: This is a novel, but it is inspired by a true story—a family story, right?
Trigiani: Yes—my grandparents, Lucia and Carlo. Their love was a dance with fate. It is riddled with near misses against a landscape of such massive world events that it’s a wonder they got together at all. My challenge was to present their world to the reader so it might feel it was happening in the moment. I wanted the reader to have the experience I had when stories were told to me by the woman who lived them.
Stockett: The novel takes place during the first half of the twentieth century--what is so compelling about this period of time to you?
Trigiani: The cusp of the twentieth century was a time everything was new—cars, phones, planes, electricity, even sportswear, and in each innovation was a kind of explosive potential. No one could predict where all the inventions would lead, people only knew that change was unavoidable.
My grandparents were delighted every time America presented them with something they had never seen before. And my grandparents’ sense of wonder never left them, so I tried not to let it leave the page, be it a cross-country train ride or the first snap of the bobbin on an electric Singer sewing machine.
Stockett: Through the remarkable story of Enza and Ciro, your novel tells the larger story of the immigrant experience in America.
Trigiani: What a gift immigrants were and are to this country! They bring their talents and loyalty and make our country even greater. My grandparents were proud to be new Americans. Assimilation was not about copying an American ideal, but aspiring to their own version of it. The highest compliment you could pay a fellow immigrant was: he (or she) was a hard worker. I hear the phrase work like an immigrant said, but really, it’s bigger than that—we must also dream like immigrants.
Stockett: The Shoemaker’s Wife seamlessly brings together fictional characters and historical figures—how did the wonderful Caruso enter the novel?
Trigiani: It started with a three-foot stack of vinyl records—my grandmother Lucia’s collection of Caruso. Her absolute devotion to The Great Voice lasted her whole life long. I knew, in order to write this novel, I had to fall in love with Caruso too, because he sang the score of my grandparents’ love affair.
When Lucia passed, I went to my first opera, seeking understanding and comfort. As the music washed over me, I began to understand why my grandmother was such a fan. The words were Italian, and the emotions were big; nothing was left unexpressed in the music. If only life were that way.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Within the pages of this novel, Trigiani’s 10th, is a gloriously romantic yet sensible world that seamlessly blends practicality and beauty…built around the staggering cultural and social changes the war years swept in…. Trigiani’s very best…exquisite writing and a story enriched by the power of abiding love.” (USA Today)
“I’ve always loved reading Trigiani, but [this] is something totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream. If you’re meeting her work for the first time, get ready for a lifelong love affair. Splendid.” (Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help)
“The breathtaking… historical novel sparkles in exquisite details and vivid descriptions.” (Huffington Post)
“[A] great read….Bella.” (People)
“Pure pleasure . . . full-bodied and elegantly written.” (Washington Post Book World)
“You’ll have trouble putting this novel down.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“The novel is a sweeping epic, but at its heart, it’s a love story. It speaks to an era of possibilities.” (Providence Journal)
“Trigiani’s page-turning newest… is a sweeping saga… More than an epic romance, Trigiani’s work pays homage to the tribulations of the immigrant experience, and the love that makes the journey and hardships worthwhile.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This expansive epic, which seems tailor-made for a miniseries, manages to feel both old-fashioned and thoroughly contemporary…[an] irresistible love story.” (Booklist)
“Trigiani’s gift for using vivid details to create a strong sense of place and her warm affection for her characters will make this a satisfying read for her many fans.” (Library Journal)
…an old-fashioned, romantic tale of two star-tangled lovers...but also a paean to artisanal work, food, friendship and family…Trigiani is a master of palpable and visual detail. (Washington Post)
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Top Customer Reviews
This is not a lighthearted story. It is filled with the hardships and difficulties of life, and the grit and determination to overcome them. Horrible circumstances make for a dark read which is saved by the strength of hardworking, driven characters.
The writing is beautiful and provides a glimpse into the lives of immigrants who flocked to the U. S., in hopes of a better life, during the early part of the 1900s through WWII. Thank you Adriana Trigani for a heart stirring read!
Both Lazzari boys loved one another, were principled, and personified honor and integrity.
Eduardo, the logic, was much admired as a scholar. He found solace in reading, tucked away in their room, after transcribing mass services for the priest. Eduardo understood his mother’s emotions, and accepted her reason for temporarily leaving them at the convent.
As a young child, clever, candid, and feisty, Ciro had a terrific sense of humor. He knew how to gain the nuns adoration with wittiness and hard work. Yet he experienced, profound, chronic depression at the loss of his father, and what he believed abandonment by his mother. I think this defining event in his young life would make him wary of commitment, even when love stood in the foreground.
At fifteen, a fearless Ciro exposed St. Nicola’s pedophile priest, making out with Ciro’s heart throb. But the consequences of the exposure shattered Ciro and his brother’s safe, stable home life. The priest had the authority to banish them from the convent. So, while Ciro had gone to the mountainous region of Schilpario to bury the Ravanelli family’s youngest daughter, Stella Ravanelli, the priest mandated Ciro be sent to a reform school and Eduardo sent to a seminary in Rome.
Ciro first met fifteen year-old, bereaved, Enza Ravinelli, the eldest daughter, in the cemetery, while he dug her sister’s grave. She had arrived to place a wreath on the grave.
Ciro listened to Enza as she expressed her feelings and the family’s powerlessness and helplessness at their sudden loss. Ciro understood her emotions. He had experienced loss too.
Enza appeared to be serious beyond her years. She had taken care of her five siblings, and was loyal, strong-minded, and had gutsy perseverance. She felt guilt-ridden that she discovered her sister’s illness that led to her demise.
With sudden wisdom beyond his years, Ciro said to Enza: “Maybe you shouldn’t blame yourself, but accept that this is your sister’s story, and the ending belongs to her.” He took Enza in his arms and kissed her. Ciro and Enza’s connection seemed instantaneous. He added: “If you look around to find meaning in everything that happens, you will end up disappointed.” This was wise, but not unusual, utterances from a fifteen year-old boy
Unfortunately, when Ciro returned to the convent, he discovered he and Eduardo no longer had a home. Eduardo welcomed his future as a priest and Ciro, who was not much for prayer or belief, did not understand his brother’s acceptance of the priesthood. Ciro was emotionally connected to his brother and Sister Teresa, who acted as his surrogate mother. He doubted if he’d ever see his mother again.
Nuns, Sisters Teresa and Ercolina, assured Ciro he would not go to reform school. Through one of the nuns, they quietly plotted and secured Remo and Maria Zanetti as sponsors, a home and shoemaker’s apprenticeship for Ciro in New York City.
Upon his arrival in New York, Ciro made a lifetime friendship with fellow immigrant, Luigi Latini.
A year later, Ciro and Enza met again by chance in St. Vincent Hospital’s chapel, in New York. She had fallen ill on the nine day journey to America, and was hospitalized upon arrival in New York. Her father, Marco, had accompanied her. The two planned to work long enough to purchase land to build their own home in Schilpario. Ciro had cut himself on the lathe in the shoe shop where he worked, was seen in Emergency, and then went with the Zanetti’s, to pray in the chapel.
It was an awkward second meeting for Enza and Ciro. His girlfriend, native New Yorker, Felicità, showed up at the hospital.
Enza’s father, Marco, travelled to Pennsylvania, to work in the mines. After her hospitalization, Enza moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, with the Buffo’s, her mother’s third cousin; a family that verbally abused and took advantage of her. Enza not only worked long hours in a New Jersey factory as a seamstress, but was expected to be the Buffo’s maid, laundress and cook. Enza’s best friend, Laura Heely, also a seamstress, wanted to move to New York City.
Ciro hadn’t written Enza and had already moved on, with his girlfriend, Felicità. Yet when Ciro and Enza met the third time, a year later, at Christopher Columbus’s holiday celebration, in Little Italy, sadly, he was still with Felicità.
At that time, Ciro saw Enza as more beautiful. She appeared poised and polished, and as a seamstress, her apparel was stylish. In Enza’s eyes, Ciro, whom she believed the most handsome man ever, had an air of sophistication about him in his dress and manner. They were two young people from the mountains of Italy, who had proved their mettle before arriving. They had survived and became part of the sparkle and energy of New York.
Enza loved Ciro deeply. She was unafraid to communicate her feelings to him. Tired of his relationship with his girlfriend, Ciro wanted a new start; a relationship with Enza. Both shared similarities and commitments to their love for family and home.
Ciro promised to visit Enza at her home in Hoboken, but didn’t arrive when promised. In the meantime, Enza, disappointed, had moved to New York City with her friend, Laura. When he did arrive at the Buffo’s, Mrs. Buffo was deceptive in her answer as to where Enza had gone.
When Ciro saw Enza again, at twenty-two, she was a sophisticated New Yorker, in love with someone else.
The relationship between Ciro and Enza seems thwarted by bad luck, but all is not lost.
This is a very good book, well written, has good description, with characters meticulously fleshed out, interesting historical sites concerning the Lombardy region of Italy, the immigrants in New York around the turn of the century, and the Metropolitan Opera House, where Enza and Laura worked.
Luigi Latini returned home to Italy with his teenaged sons around the time Germany had entered Italy, during World War II. I thought something would be written concerning their safety, especially with them having lived in America.
Unfortunately, Caterina had not coped with or moved beyond her suffering. She did not recover and renew her relationship with her boys while they were young. The disruption and separation was deeply felt by Ciro even into adulthood. I wanted to know what really happened concerning the Lazzari’s home or property. Did Caterina’s in-laws have something to do with their homelessness, or her own siblings have something to do with her parents’ property? Usually, during that era, sons (Montini’s) would be given possession of property. I thought this would be discussed by Caterina when Ciro and Eduardo visited her as adults.
Omens were mentioned in the book. I wanted to know what a pink sun and blue sky meant. Concerning the chopped down tree in the Zanetti’s former home, I believe this saddened Ciro because it represented a loss or an end.
I gave this book four stars.