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The Shoemaker's Wife
by Adriana Trigiani
Paperback : 496 pages
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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 ReviewKathryn 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 Shoemaker’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 grandmother’s musings from 1985. I collected train tickets, copies of ships’ manifests, and a silk tag with my grandmother’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 story—a family story, right?
Trigiani: Yes—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 it’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 new—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 grandparents’ 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, it’s bigger than that—we must also dream like immigrants.
Stockett: The Shoemaker’s Wife seamlessly brings together fictional characters and historical figures—how did the wonderful Caruso enter the novel?
Trigiani: It started with a three-foot stack of vinyl records—my grandmother Lucia’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 grandparents’ 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.
ExcerptNo Excerpt Currently Available
Discussion Questions1. 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?
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