Book Notes: a positive portrayal of the immigrant experience

Adriana Trigiani’s novel The Shoemaker’s Wife is a fictional story based on her own grandparents’ experience. It begins in the early 1900s with the Lazzari brothers, Eduardo and Ciro, going into the care of nuns in the Italian Alps. The younger Ciro is a favorite of the nuns. After he witnesses a new priest in a compromising position with a parishioner, both brothers are banished from the convent. The nuns arrange for Ciro to go to New York City. Prior to leaving, he meets Enza Ravanelli from a nearby village and they fall in love.

Both Ciro and Enza emigrate to New York, neither aware of the other. After serving as a shoemaker’s apprentice, Ciro serves in WWI and gains U.S. citizenship. Meanwhile, Enza works as a seamstress to the stars of the Metropolitan Opera and sends most of her money back to Italy to help her family build a house.

The story follows Enza’s and Ciro’s near misses in reuniting. Eventually, just as Enza is about to marry someone else, she and Ciro do reunite, marry, and move to the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. Ciro opens a shoe shop to supply miners with handmade boots, and Enza designs and sews elegant costumes for society ladies.

The alternating perspectives of Ciro and Enza are used to tell this story of love, family, friendship, and loyalties. It is also about the immigrant experience.

UMRA’s Book Club members liked the book and its positive portrayal of the immigrant experience. Several thought the descriptions of Northern Italy were wonderful. One said she gained a new appreciation for the Iron Range though the author’s descriptions of “up and coming” Chisholm and Hibbing in early 1900s. A few members said some of the plot turns were implausible, but this just added to a very spirited discussion

—Laura Ericksen 

Publication date: 
April 30, 2019
At A Glance
Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Luncheon + Forum
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Joan Gabel, president
University of Minnesota

Living Well Workshop
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Dale Shephard Room
How to keep our brains healthy

Pan-seared catfish with lemon aioli over red bean and rice, with seasonable vegetables.

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