The Shoemaker’s Wife

Written by Adriana Trigiani
Review by Pamela Ferrell Ortega

This sprawling history begins in the Italian Alps in the early 20th century. It takes a while for teenaged Ciro and Enza to meet, and even then, it’s a short encounter. But this is enough to awaken the handsome Ciro’s interest in the lovely Enza, and enough for Enza to fall in love with him. Before they can meet again, however, circumstances (in the form of a vengeful priest) force Ciro to immigrate to America as an apprentice shoemaker. Eventually, Enza must also leave to help support her family, and it takes several years before the two reconnect in New York, where both struggle and live the immigrant experience.

Enza’s skill as a seamstress eventually leads her to create costumes at the Metropolitan Opera and to meet the fabulous Caruso. Both Enza and Ciro almost marry others, but her steadfast love tames the impetuous Ciro, and they marry.

Their saga covers almost too much detail in its three decades and 448 pages. The supporting cast of characters is quite large, but most are left behind as Ciro and Enza move from Italy to New Jersey and New York, then the battlefields of World War I France, where Ciro fights for the American army, and eventually to Minnesota. Once they leave Italy, the pace slows and the story loses focus. Caruso and the Met sparkle, but once Enza gives that up to move with Ciro to Minnesota, the storyline meanders again. Recommended where Trigiani is popular.