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.So begins the advertising blurb. I should have loved this book. My grandparents came from Italy and many of my childhood memories are of Italian meals, Italian celebrations and superstitions and festivities. The publishers stress that this is Adriana Trigiani's tribute to her grandparents, and tout it as a magnificent work of homage to her heritage. There are paragraphs upon paragraphs written about the depth of the affection shown in the writing, and the wonderful way she plumbs the psyches of the characters with their love of Italy, love of family, and devotion to their children.
It's a good story, it's a good romance, and the historical detail about the immigrant experience in New York and then in the mid-west rings true. But there's just way too much of it. If I hadn't wanted to see whether Enza and Ciro ever get back to their roots in northern Italy to see the old country, I'd have given up about half-way through. It took them forever to find each other, and then it takes the author forever to develop each new happening in their lives. The emotional introspection often goes on for pages, and slows the progress of the story, making it an excruciating read.
I wondered if this could be seen as the prequel to her VValentine series, although that was never mentioned. If you're a fan of Trigiani, and are used to her lengthy emotional blatherings, then you'll love this one. If you like your writing crisp and clear, just be advised this one is frothier than that. It's got enough meat that I wouldn't call it chick-lit, but I'd have to be in a chick-lit/romance frame of mind to take it all in one dose. And I'd have preferred it to be about 100 pages shorter.
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Publisher-Format: Harper 2012, 496 pages
Subject: Italian heritage, immigrants, shoemaking
Setting: Italian Alps, New York City, Hibbing and Chisolm Minnesota
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Source: Public library