Monday, September 24, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife - A Short Take

I share books with my sister, Mom, and friends. We lay stacks of books aside after we're done reading them, reserving them for certain people in our lives. I have a stack of what I call, 'chick lit' that I put aside for Mom. She reads and passes on to my sister and sisters-in-law. The books make the rounds and then we gush over them or pan them ... it's the family best seller list taken to the phone or family party. I'm sure you, dear readers, have some system to for recommending or bashing the books you read.

This is the latest book that I will be passing to Mom. She will love it - me, not as much as some of Ms. Trigiani's other books. I do really like Adriana T's world of Italian women. She wowed me throughout her entire 'Stone Gap' series. I loved her strong female characters set in real world settings. In this, her latest book, she has drawn on inspiration from her grandparent's emigration to America and their romance and family life to create the world of Ciro and Enza Lazzari. It's a story of strong connections to Catholic church, family, the family place in northern Italy, and the struggle to maintain close ties to family when emigration to America becomes a necessity. It's a story of faithful work for family, constancy in relationships, understanding the motives and circumstances of family members that seem cruel when one is young and understandable as one ages and faces the vicissitudes of life. It's a story of strength and character. All this is placed against the background of the early to mid-1900's. - and that is where Ms. T runs into trouble, as far as I'm concerned.

While her characters are rolled up in the world of NYC immigration and the adjustment of the minorites to American work, very little of the bias toward immigrants, working world upheaval, and politics of the era are even touched on. While Ciro is placed smack dab in the center of WWI as an American doughboy, the great pandemic of 1918 is not even mentioned. The Great Depression and how it effected American workers? Nowhere to be seen. The build-up to WWII ... nowhere. She writes closely to family day to day experiences and the relationships within the small town that Enza and Ciro move to in Minnesota, but never touches on the larger American fabric of change and politics. I found that a great weakness in the storyline, but perhaps I am stuck between genres ... this is an example of realistic fiction and not historical fiction, I guess. That line seems blurry here and it's a fine line to be walked by Trigiani.

That being said, I still liked the book! It fulfilled a need for a nice, undemanding story to follow a gutsy post-WWII novel of intrigue that made me really pay attention to details. I floated through The Shoemaker's Wife. I wondered how Ciro and Enza would finally get together and was pleased when they did. I was saddened by the fates of certain family members and happy at how others fared across time. I rooted for Enza and her dear friend, Laura to make it big in America. Predictably, they did - with all the joy, sorrow, luck, and fulfillment that one would wish for hard-working American immigrants. This is a story of the American dream fulfilled. Mom will love it.

I'll continue to snap up Adriana Trigiani's books. She writes excellent 'chick lit' - good solid stories of strong Italian women ... and if she ever is at an author event near me, I'll make the pilgrimage to listen to her speak about her writing, her inspiration, and her attitudes toward the publishing world. She's a keeper.

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