Tony’s Wife

Written by Adriana Trigiani
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

Whether she will be ‘Tony’s wife,’ or her own, independent woman, is a decision Italian-American Chiara Donatelli has to make when she strikes a bargain with God, asking him to save her husband, who has gone missing during a World War II raid. When he is returned to her, Chi Chi, as she is called, stays true to her word, putting Tony, whose real name is Saverio Armandonda, and his vocation as a crooner ahead of her own singer-songwriter ambitions, even though Tony is unfaithful to her and absent from home and the lives of their three children. Although they divorce, Chiara remains Tony’s assistant and caretaker, writing his songs, and managing his accounts and love affairs, until his death from a heart attack, which she endures as stoically as she has the other blows he has dealt her. Creating a last tribute to him in the manner of the Great American Songbook, she remains loyal to him, because ‘he is family.’

Set during the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Fifties, Tony’s Wife tells the Hollywoodesque story of a career in show business during the great age of the crooners from the point of view of a woman, who must be all things to her husband in order to secure his rise to fame. That Chiara is a take-charge enabler is Tony’s great luck. But her devotion costs her more than she bargained for—the death of a beloved member of her family. This is a terrible shock to Chiara because what matters most to her is family, and the novel is a passionate paean to immigrant lives spent in the sustaining circle of beloved relations. A musically inspired evocation of a bygone era.