I cannot get over how beautiful The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani was. This may be the worst book hangover ever. Amidst tears, I had to go find my Post-It Flags so that I could remember the passages I wanted to share with you.
The Shoemaker’s Wife follows Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazzari through their lives from childhood on. They first meet in the mountains of Northern Italy, their home. Ciro is sent to dig the grave of Enza’s young sister. Through a multitude of different reasons, both Enza and Ciro emigrate to America. Their paths continue to cross, but never fully converge. Enza works her way up to become a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House, and Ciro enlists in the Army to fight in World War I. When their paths cross on Enza’s wedding day, it’s fate and a whole lot of love.
We get to grow with them as they get married, move, and start a family. The book ends as the family returns to their native Italy to visit the mountain that started it all.
Why was The Shoemaker’s Wife so beautiful?
I haven’t read a novel with such exquisite detail before. The Matthew Pearl books I’ve read have a lot of detail too, but nothing like this. The hardest parts to read were the descriptions of all the delicious Italian food. Through Adriana Trigani’s descriptions, you actually feel like you’re in the mountains of Northern Italy or in the Iron Range in Minnesota.
Her descriptions of love also destroyed me, but in the best way. There’s a moment where Enza, who has always looked out for everyone else, is finally taking a moment to look out for herself and what she wants:
Enza could not fight the past. Life is a series of choices, made with the best of intentions, often with hope. But she knew in this moment that life, the life she’d always dreamed of, was about the family, not just two people in love. It was a fresco, not a painting, filled with details that required years of collaboration to create.The Shoemaker’s Wife, Page 311
Then, her father gets to meet Ciro before returning home to Italy:
“Our home on the mountain was completed nearly one year ago. I could have gone home then. Instead, I stayed on to make this purse for my daughter’s dowry. It brings me contentment to know that this small sacrifice will make it easier for my daughter as she starts her new life. One year of my forty-six on this earth is a pittance compared to what she means to me.”The Shoemaker’s Wife, Page 335
The last one I’ll share occurs when Ciro returns to Italy later on in life:
As the sun began to set, the sky turned the exact blue it had been the night he’d first Enza, after digging the grave…It seemed to Ciro that so much of life was about not holding on, but letting go and in so doing the beauty of the past and the happiness he felt then came full circle like a band of gold.The Shoemaker’s Wife, Page 422
I could go on and on about the beauty of this novel and how well the story is told, but I honestly think you need to read it for yourself. As you get toward the end, though, make sure you have some tissues handy. Also, can we talk about how physically beautiful the novel is? The cover art is just the perfect fit for the story.
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