BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Romantic,
Beautiful,
Dramatic

28 reviews

The Shoemaker's Wife
by Adriana Trigiani

Published: 2012-08-21
Paperback : 496 pages
125 members reading this now
40 clubs reading this now
0 members told 0 friends about this book.
54 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 27 of 28 members
Beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani returns with the most epic and ambitious novel of her career—a breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker'...
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
List Price:
$15.99
Amazon's Price:
$9.52
You Save:
$6.47 (40%)
Jump to

Introduction

Beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani returns with the most epic and ambitious novel of her career—a breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker's Wife is replete with the all the page-turning adventure, sumptuous detail, and heart-stopping romance that has made Adriana Trigiani, “one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today). Fans of Trigiani’s sweeping family dramas like Big Stone Gap and Lucia, Lucia will love her latest masterpiece, a book Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, calls “totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream.”

Editorial Review

Kathryn Stockett Interviews Adriana Trigiani

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. The Help is her first novel.

Kathryn Stockett: This is by far your most epic novel to date. How long did it take you to write The Shoemakerâ??s Wife?

Adriana Trigiani: I worked on this story for over 20 years as I wrote scripts and novels and had my own family. There are scraps of paper, dinner napkins, and bills with timelines and notes scrawled across them. There are old notebooks filled with my grandmotherâ??s musings from 1985. I collected train tickets, copies of shipsâ?? manifests, and a silk tag with my grandmotherâ??s name from garments she had created. I traveled as far as the Italian Alps and as close as the few blocks it takes me to walk to Little Italy in New York City to capture the historical aspects of the story. All of this went into the novel. It was a delicious gestation period.

Stockett: This is a novel, but it is inspired by a true storyâ??a family story, right?

Trigiani: Yesâ??my grandparents, Lucia and Carlo. Their love was a dance with fate. It is riddled with near misses against a landscape of such massive world events that itâ??s a wonder they got together at all. My challenge was to present their world to the reader so it might feel it was happening in the moment. I wanted the reader to have the experience I had when stories were told to me by the woman who lived them.

Stockett: The novel takes place during the first half of the twentieth century--what is so compelling about this period of time to you?

Trigiani: The cusp of the twentieth century was a time everything was newâ??cars, phones, planes, electricity, even sportswear, and in each innovation was a kind of explosive potential. No one could predict where all the inventions would lead, people only knew that change was unavoidable.

My grandparents were delighted every time America presented them with something they had never seen before. And my grandparentsâ?? sense of wonder never left them, so I tried not to let it leave the page, be it a cross-country train ride or the first snap of the bobbin on an electric Singer sewing machine.

Stockett: Through the remarkable story of Enza and Ciro, your novel tells the larger story of the immigrant experience in America.

Trigiani: What a gift immigrants were and are to this country! They bring their talents and loyalty and make our country even greater. My grandparents were proud to be new Americans. Assimilation was not about copying an American ideal, but aspiring to their own version of it. The highest compliment you could pay a fellow immigrant was: he (or she) was a hard worker. I hear the phrase work like an immigrant said, but really, itâ??s bigger than thatâ??we must also dream like immigrants.

Stockett: The Shoemakerâ??s Wife seamlessly brings together fictional characters and historical figuresâ??how did the wonderful Caruso enter the novel?

Trigiani: It started with a three-foot stack of vinyl recordsâ??my grandmother Luciaâ??s collection of Caruso. Her absolute devotion to The Great Voice lasted her whole life long. I knew, in order to write this novel, I had to fall in love with Caruso too, because he sang the score of my grandparentsâ?? love affair.

When Lucia passed, I went to my first opera, seeking understanding and comfort. As the music washed over me, I began to understand why my grandmother was such a fan. The words were Italian, and the emotions were big; nothing was left unexpressed in the music. If only life were that way.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. The novel is split into three parts: Italian Alps, Manhattan and Minnesota. How would you characterize Ciro and Enza in each of these sections? How do they adapt to their new homes? In what ways did they change over the course of the novel? In what ways did they remain the same?

2. How would the course of both Ciro’s and Enza’s lives have been different if they hadn’t gone to America? Do you think they would have ended up together if they had stayed on the mountain?

3. Enza and Ciro shared their first kiss beside Stella’s grave. In what ways did digging the grave open up Ciro’s heart?

4. When Ciro opened up his duffle bag on the ship to America, “the fragrance of the convent laundry – lavender and starch – enveloped him, fresh as the mountain air of Vilminore” (p. 120). What other aspects of convent life stayed with Ciro and Eduardo after they left? What did they learn from the sisters?

5. Enza “found a best friend in Laura, but so much more” (p. 195). What do you think made Laura and Enza’s bond so deep from the beginning? In what ways did they support one another?

6. Did anything surprise you about the characterization of Enrico Caruso? How would you describe his relationship with those around him? How did the time he spent with Enza and Laura affect them, even decades later?

7. How does The Shoemaker’s Wife portray the immigrant experience? Do any of your own families have a similar immigrant history? Did they have a different experience?

8. Enza and Ciro have different views of religion. In what ways do their beliefs shape their actions and relationship?

9. How do you think Enza’s life would have turned out if she had married Vito? If Ciro had married Felicitá? What did Vito and Felicitá offer them and what did they lack?

10. Carlo Lazzari warned Eduardo to “beware the things of this world that can mean everything or nothing”. In what ways did this advice ring true throughout the novel?

11. What effect did fighting in the Great War have on Ciro? Do you believe he returned to Manhattan a changed man, or did the war just force him to acknowledge what he had known all along?

12. When Ciro saw Enza on the steps of Our Lady of Pompeii church, moments away from marrying Vito, “it seemed like fate was on his side.” Do you believe that fate brought Ciro and Enza together on that day? Overall, do you believe that Ciro and Enza were destined to be together?

13. Enza once said to Ciro: “I remind you, I imagine, of things you’d rather not think about.” What do you believe Enza meant by this? What challenges did Ciro and Enza face in their relationship? How did they differ in their ways of communicating?

14. How did Ciro, Enza and Antonio each react to Ciro’s diagnosis? What were Ciro’s fears and hopes for his family? In what ways will Enza and Antonio fulfill his dreams?

15. At the end of the novel, Enza agrees to return to Italy with Antonio and Angela. How do you imagine the reunion between Enza and her family? How will Schilpario be different for Enza when seen through Angela and Antonio’s eyes?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Behind The Book

It started with a three foot stack of vinyl records, the old black discs upon which Enrico Caruso recorded the greatest arias of the opera. My grandmother Lucia collected all of his records and played them over and over again. Her absolute devotion to The Great Voice lasted her whole life long. I knew, in order to write this novel, I had to fall in love with Caruso too, because he sang the score of my grandparents love affair.

I’m a latecomer to the opera. I knew a few arias, and had a minimal knowledge of the great composers. I was working in Los Angeles in 1994 and went to see The Three Tenors by myself. I was compelled by the recent loss of my grandmother, and thought somehow, that the concert would illuminate something for me or provide some comfort as I grieved. After all it was her music. I climbed into my seat, sat amongst strangers and leaned in as if to look for something.

The orchestra was sublime. I developed an instant crush on Placido Domingo. Jose Carreras was razor sharp and focused. Pavarotti was warm and looked like one of my cousins twice removed. As the music washed over me, I began to understand why my grandmother was such a fan. The words were Italian, and the emotions were big, nothing was left unexpressed in the music. If only life were that way.

The Shoemaker’s Wife has been my artistic obsession. I have long been fascinated by my grandparents love story because it was a dance with fate. It’s one of those stories that had so many near misses against the landscape of world events that it’s a wonder they got together at all. My challenge was to present their world to you, beginning in the Italian Alps in 1905 in all its truth and particularity so it might feel it was happening in the moment. The story had to feel fresh, progressive and airy. I wanted my reader to have the experience I had when stories were told to me by the woman who lived them.

My grandparents were born in interesting times, on the cusp of the 20th Century as machines began to turn out shoes that were once made only by hand, as Enrico Caruso recorded the great voice on vinyl, as the first World War took hold and swept my grandfather into the belly of it. The pace of their lives began to race as machines, airplanes and cars made the world modern. My grandfather threw himself into the changes, naming his shoe business The Progressive Shoe Shop. He was in lock step with times, or at least, he hoped to be.

My grandparents sense of wonder never left them, so I tried not to let it leave the page. A cross country train ride, a standing room only ticket to hear Caruso, the first snap of the bobbin on a electric Singer sewing machine was new to them, and I wanted you to feel the delight that they experienced every time America presented them with something they had never seen before. Their lives, at the turn of the twentieth century were the very essence of modern. Everything was new, cars, phones, planes, electricity, even sportswear, and within the various innovations and creations was a kind of explosive potential. No one could predict where all the inventions would lead, they only knew that change was unavoidable.

I would return to this story in between the work on my other novels and noodle with it. There are many scraps of paper, including dinner napkins and the backs of old bills with a long line drawn across as I fiddled with the timeline. There are old notebooks filled with my grandmother’s musings that I wrote down as far back as 1985. I had bits of things, a random collection of train tickets, copies of ships manifests, and a silk tag with my grandmother’s name which she sewed into the backs of garments she had created. All these little things began to add up to something. I thought of Lucia’s stitch work, uniform, clean and perfect, and the thought of her artistry inspired me to stay with this story.

As it often goes with my novels, I walk around telling the story over and over again, to anyone who will listen until I can no longer resist the impulse to write it down. I traveled as far as the Italian Alps and as close the few blocks it takes me to walk to Little Italy in New York City to bring you the historical aspects of the story. It was a delicious gestation period. I worked on this story for over twenty years as I wrote scripts and novels and had my own family.

My travels got me to thinking about what it meant to be an immigrant, then and now. What a gift immigrants are to this country. They bring their talents and loyalty, and make our country even greater. My grandparents were proud to be new Americans. Assimilation was not about copying an American ideal, but aspiring to their own version of it. The highest compliment you could pay a fellow immigrant was he (or she) was a hard worker. I hear the phrase, work like an immigrant, said, but really, it’s bigger than that- we must also dream like immigrants.

My grandparents believed anything was possible if only they worked hard and had a teaspoon of luck. That old chutzpah still resonates, that magnificent moxie still remains, that drive to give their families the best of themselves, no matter the sacrifice, is still alive in us. This century is a return to the struggle. I found great solace in my grandparents’ courage. They were not alone. There were millions just like them.

When I was presented with the ship’s manifests of my grandparents separate journeys from Italy to America, imagine my elation as a writer when the box was checked that they could read and write. That was no small miracle at the turn of the last century. They placed the value of education, of reading and writing up at the top of their list, above survival. I wonder if they ever thought the written word might carry the spirit of their history forward. I hope I see them again someday so I might know.

It is my highest dream and most humble honor to present the fictionalized story of the life of my grandfather, a shoemaker, and his true love, my grandmother, a seamstress, who was most proud to be The Shoemaker’s Wife.

New York City, January 4, 2012

Book Club Recommendations

Activity
by janiceb (see profile) 08/11/13
We were fortunate to have Trigiana speak in town and if you can get to hear her please do. We all enjoyed the evening she is very humorous.
Mixed opinion!!
by Tiddy70 (see profile) 06/15/13
A nice choice ... easy read but splits opinion A good tear jerker ... you will need a box of tissues

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "The Shoemakers Wife"by MGabe (see profile) 09/27/13

This is an enjoyable, romantic novel that emphasizes the bonds of national pride and culture. The novel delves into how our past experiences, our family and our country constitute who we become and how... (read more)

 
  "A page turner!"by hdcook (see profile) 09/05/13

 
  "True Adriana"by janiceb (see profile) 08/11/13

The book is classic Adriana Trigiana. Old country beginning which was beautifully written but I thought went on for too long. Overall excellent read; characters and description

 
  "The Shoemaker's Wife"by Starfan0267 (see profile) 07/13/13

I thought it a wonderful read. An inspiring relationship between two people who have so much ambition and kindness as well.

 
  "An epic love story"by FTessa (see profile) 07/08/13

Audio book narrated by Annabella Sciorra and Adriana Trigiani This is an epic love story taking the reader from the Italian Alps to the Iron Range of Minnesota and covering four decades, beginning in... (read more)

 
  "The Shoemaker's Wife, Adriana Trigiani"by thewanderingjew (see profile) 07/05/13

I must admit that the covers of Adriana Trigiani’s books often turned me off, but this time, I am glad it did not. The story of The Shoemaker’s Wife was superbly executed, although, at times, it did... (read more)

 
  "The shoemaker's wife"by GreenArr0w (see profile) 06/18/13

The rest of my book club was quite enthusiastic about this book...hoping for a sequel. I was alone in my feeling that it was way too schmaltzy, but that's how i feel!

 
  "Mixed opinion!!"by Tiddy70 (see profile) 06/15/13

Well first of all I adore Adriana Trigiani and I have read all of her books. This was suggested by one of our friends. I love the setting, the historical references and the descriptive detail she puts... (read more)

 
  "Great Book"by pbixler (see profile) 05/14/13

 
  "The Shoemaker's Wife"by hernanka (see profile) 05/02/13

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search




FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...