Adriana Tigiani's celebration of the lives of her grandparents is a remarkably enjoyable true novel. It is a joyous, heart-wrenching story; it is the story of Life.
Tigiani's descriptive powers are evocative, whether describing a tiny village in the Italian Alps, the shipboard trip to America, or Enrico Caruso and his dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera. The reader has the sense of having been put down squarely in the middle of the action.
The year is 1905 in the small village of Vilminore, Italy. At the age of 10, Ciro Lazzari and his brother Eduardo, 11, are taken to a convent by their mother and left in the solicitous care of the nuns. Their father had been killed in a mine accident in the United States and their mother was no longer able to cope psychologically. Treated well by the nuns, the boys learn manners and how to make their way in the world. Eduardo is destined to become a priest and remain in Italy. Ciro has the misfortune of finding the village priest in the arms of a local girl. Consequently, he is forced to leave and, with the connivance of the nuns, makes his way to America and becomes a shoemaker. That is no surprise given the title of the book.
Naturally, after many starts and stops, they marry and raise a family. In a story of two star-crossed lovers that could easily have become maudlin in lesser artistic hands, Trigiani weaves an entertaining and engrossing tale of enduring love that is finally consummated.
Trigiani writes that in America "everyone acted entitled to a better deal. Ciro had entered the circus; the show was Italian, but the tent was American." However, Ciro and Enza succeeded because they worked hard to make a better life and "had a teaspoon of luck" as Trigiani notes in "A Letter From Adri" at the end of the novel. No novelist has mined the stories of her family with more verve and success than Adriana Trigiani. In this instance, she seems to have told the beginning of a story that has been expanded in previous novels. Once again she has presented a novel rich in family history, rich in the magic of storytelling, and rich in love. What she says of Ciro in the novel is equally true of her: "A true Italian, he loved his family and he loved beauty. Love came full circle." This is a novel not to be missed.
Adriana Trigiani began her writing career in Television, as a writer for The Cosby Show and A Different World. She set her first novel, Big Stone Gap (2001), in the small coal-mining town in southwest Vigrinia where she was raised. Three subsequent novels, Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon, and Home to Big Stone Gap were sequels that continued the story begun in Big Stone Gap. Her other novels, Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, Rococo, Very Valentine and Brava, Valentine all toped the bestseller lists.