Friday, October 12, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife

Book Review

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani.

I first saw this title on a list at the library.

I had never read anything by this author. I had never heard of this author.

Just when I start to feel smug and start to think I know something, I get smacked back down to earth.

This author is not new. This author has been around for awhile. This author has published many things.

Where have I been???

Busy reading other things, I guess.

Well, since I am trying to crawl out of my cave, I decided I would brave a new-to-me author again.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

I had no idea of the author's style. I had no idea of the author's other works. I had no idea what was in store for me.

A blank slate again.

It's pretty exciting to be a blank slate, and then find that you can't put the book down!

The Shoemaker's Wife

And that is just what happened. I didn't want to stop reading.

This is a historical fiction story about two teenagers from neighboring villages in the Italian Alps, who meet under unfortunate circumstances. Then, unbeknownst to the other, they each end up immigrating to America. One to New York, the other to New Jersey.

They encounter each other again a few times in the ensuing years, each pursuing their lives mostly unaware of the other. This is their story and how they finally came to be together.

Trigiani weaves true, historical fact with personal, familial fact with detailed, fictional elements. And beautifully so. We get to know her own family history, during the time when the world was quickly and consistently remaking itself with new innovations. Trigiani never lets us lose sight of how crucial these immigrants and their hard work were to the prosperity of America.

We are escorted from the Italian Alps to New York City to France to Minnesota. Each with scene and setting presented beautifully. And at each place, we get a sense of what an immigrant's life was like. Difficult, rewarding, humbling, isolating, encouraging, satisfying. All are present. All are felt.

I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I didn't want to put it down. It is well written and flows nicely. The only criticism is the pacing. Much time is spent at some points in the story, while we are whisked through other parts. I especially felt this at the end of the book, when I wasn't ready to let go of the characters and story.

While this could be called a true-life novel or a fictional memoir, it is also a love story. Not sappy and cloying. Just nicely sweet. Quite pleasant.

Now, I know I will have to go find more of Trigiani's novels. I love finding a new, favorite author!

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