Book review: 'The Shoemaker's Wife' by Adriana Trigiani

In “The Shoemaker's Wife,” author Adriana Trigiani draws on her grandparents' life story to write an epic novel of family, love, war and destiny.
By Betty Lytle Published: April 29, 2012
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In “The Shoemaker's Wife” (HarperCollins Publisher, $26.99), author Adriana Trigiani draws on her grandparents' life story to write an epic novel of family, love, war and destiny.

Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli met as teenagers in the Italian Alps. Ciro came up the mountain to dig a grave for Enza's little sister, who died as a child. Soon after, Ciro is banished from the convent where he has lived with his brother since his mother left them there, as she was unable to care for them.

Ciro goes to America and becomes an apprentice shoemaker in New York City's Little Italy. Separately, Enza also goes to America with her father. She takes a factory job in Hoboken, while her father goes west to find work.

Enza and her father plan to earn enough money to build Enza's mother and siblings a house in Italy. Then they will return home. Enza does not know that Ciro is in America until they meet by chance. He is on his way to fight in World War I.

Enza, an excellent seamstress, obtains a job at the Metropolitan Opera House, creating costumes for the stars, including the great Enrico Caruso.

When Ciro comes back into her life, Enza leaves her fiance at the altar, gives up the job she loves, and moves to Minnesota where Ciro makes shoes for working men.

Although this is initially a love story, it gives us a clear picture of the times and the people who immigrated to this country. Their ambitions were simple: to find the American dream.

— Betty Lytle