I hope you all enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving and are ready to dive into December’s Literary Wives pick: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. If you don’t know about our Literary Wives book club, you can read about it here. We have a couple of announcements:
- Congratulations to Audra of Unabridged Chick, whose son Winslow Alcott was born on November 18th!! Audra is miraculously still writing blog posts, so I really have no excuse.
- We’re super excited to have a new member of the book club, Naomi from Consumed by Ink. Welcome!
Please be sure to check out everyone’s reviews this month:
- Audra at Unabridged Chick – on a break
- Carolyn at Rosemary & Reading Glasses
- Cecilia at Only You – on a break
- Emily at The Bookshelf of Emily J.
- Kay from What Me Read
- Lynn from Smoke & Mirrors
- Naomi at Consumed by Ink
The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani; published 2012 by Simon & Schuster
I really enjoyed Trigiani’s imaginative imagery and her exploration of the unpredictability of love. I was disappointed by the sometimes wandering plotline, excruciatingly long denouement, and the fact that her characters got out of tough predicaments way too easily. That’s just my quick two cents. All in all, I’m glad I read it.
Starting in Italy in 1905, Ciro and his brother are left at a convent by their recently widowed mother. They are raised by the nuns there, and their lives move in very different directions; Eduardo decides to become a priest, while Ciro decides to pursue his great love: girls. After a small scandal, he is kicked out of the convent and sent to America to be apprenticed to a shoemaker. But before he left he met one girl, Vincenza (or Enza, for short). They shared a brief kiss that made a deep impression on both of them, though they wouldn’t know it for a while.
The book follows both Ciro and Enza’s lives for many years, as he falls in and out of love with American girls, as Enza moves to America as a seamstress to send money back home to her family. They run into each other periodically and find that the attraction is always there. But it takes Ciro years and a stint in WWI to finally decide to pursue Enza.
At one point, Ciro’s long search for love is described this way:
He had always believed that true love would overwhelm, capture, and guide him to the safe shores of fidelity like a boat made of fine wood, varnished against the elements. But it hadn’t, not yet anyway… He was waiting to feel that deep attachment take hold within his heart. He knew for sure it existed. He remembered it on the mountain.
This quote struck me—the assumption that “true” love is an all-consuming emotion that inspires and protects us. Is that true? The counterargument we often hear is that love takes constant work, 100% vigilance. Or is it some mix of both? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Enza seems to also share this high value on the emotion of love, and it ultimately impacts her decision on who to marry. On the morning that she is supposed to marry someone else, Ciro shows up and declares that he loves her. He literally catches her as she’s standing outside the church. (See why I think these characters escape trouble too easily?) Enza makes her decision by “listening carefully to her own heart and keeping her own counsel.” Even though Vito, her fiance, is a good man and would give her everything she needs, she feels that Ciro is more like her: he knows “her” Italy, he knows her past, and she is powerfully attracted to him.
A woman can only know two things when she falls in love: what she sees in the man, and what she believes he will become in the light of her care.
So in answering our question, “In what way does this woman define ‘wife’—or in what way is she defined by ‘wife’?” I have to conclude that for Enza it is a daily habit and choice that she makes, which she does because of that initial emotion. Unfortunately, we don’t really know if Ciro and Enza’s love ever does take a lot of work, as what we see of the rest of it is only marred by external tragedies.
What did you think of this book? And what do you think about the balance between work/emotion in love?
Our next Literary Wives discussion will be in February, when we’ll talk about the most notorious Tudor in The Last Wife of Henry VIII.