The Shoemaker's Wife
by Adriana Trigiani
The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker’s Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.
This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, Lucia, The Shoemaker’s Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.
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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?
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"Within the pages of this novel, Trigiani’s 10th, is a gloriously romantic yet sensible world that seamlessly blends practicality and beauty…built around the staggering cultural and social changes the war years swept in…. Trigiani’s very best…exquisite writing and a story enriched by the power of abiding love."
"I’ve always loved reading Adriana Trigiani, but The Shoemaker’s Wife is something totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream. I don’t know how Adriana goes into her family’s attic and emerges with these amazing stories, I’m just happy she does. If you’re meeting her work for the first time, get ready for a lifelong love affair. The Shoemaker’s Wife is utterly splendid."
Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help
"The breathtaking… historical novel sparkles in exquisite details and vivid descriptions."
"[A] great read….Bella."
"You’ll have trouble putting this novel down."
"The novel is a sweeping epic, but at its heart, it’s a love story. It speaks to an era of possibilities."
"Trigiani’s page-turning newest… is a sweeping saga… More than an epic romance, Trigiani’s work pays homage to the tribulations of the immigrant experience, and the love that makes the journey and hardships worthwhile."
"This expansive epic, which seems tailor-made for a miniseries, manages to feel both old-fashioned and thoroughly contemporary…[an] irresistible love story."
"Trigiani’s gift for using vivid details to create a strong sense of place and her warm affection for her characters will make this a satisfying read for her many fans."