Inspired by the true love story of her grandparents, Ms. Trigiani has written a charming epic set in the first half of the twentieth century. An interesting tidbit: the book's beautiful cover was originally featured in the 1949 issue of Harper's Bazaar.
The Shoemaker's Wife
Ciro Lazzari and his brother, Eduardo are raised by nuns in the Northern Alps of Italy. Their mother leaves them in their care as young boys following the death of their father. Enza Ravanelli is raised in a loving but poor family. Her mother tends to the family and her father transports passengers by cart up and down the mountain. Enza's father was, in fact, the man who transported Signora Caterina Lazzari and her young sons to the convent. As teenagers, Enza and Ciro meet for the first time when her beloved youngest sister, Stella dies. Ciro is the young man charged with digging her grave. From that day forward, their lives are forever changed.
"When he thought of Enza, he didn't imagine her lips, her eyes or her hands. Rather, he saw her in full standing before him in the blue night air, every aspect of her beauty revealed in the light."
Their budding friendship is short circuited by circumstances when Ciro is banished and leaves for America to become a shoemaker's apprentice. Following his departure, difficulties also arise in the Ravanelli household and Enza emigrates with her father to America in search of money to save the family.
Enza and Ciro are like ships that pass in the night as their lives intersect throughout the years. Each pursues the American dream in his/her own way. Ciro becomes established in the Zanetti Shoe Shop while Enza, eventually, enjoys success as a seamstress for the Metropolitan Opera House.
At the moment when the star-crossed pair seem likely to reunite and be together, events shift and Ciro leaves to serve his adopted country in World War I. He returns from that war changed and more focused.
"The complete chaos of war had helped him think clearly and to define life for himself in a plain way. It was either yes or no, life or death, love or loneliness. War had taught him that everything was absolute. So he too began to think like a general even when it came to his own heart. "
Enza, too, is faced with critical choices about her future. She must decide if destiny has conspired to keep Ciro in her life forever or follow an entirely different path.
"But Enza thought that was the nature of love to catch you unaware and play the notes of your past in a haunting melody over and over again until you believe it is your aria, your future too. "
Themes of love, loss, war, courage, hardship and family are woven throughout this book that create a wonderful tapestry of life. I, truly, enjoyed engaging in the journey and experiencing life as an immigrant vicariously through Ms. Trigiani's words.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content
in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
Philippians 4:12 NIV Bible