This was the book I chose to read during that most sparkly of times of a woman’s life: the week of her wedding. Knowing its lead character, Valentine, was tying the knot herself, I figured it was just the engrossing-but-lighthearted read I craved.
I have a long track record of enjoying the works of Adriana Trigiani, which feature a lovely blend of love and family, and I was really looking forward to sinking into The Supreme Macaroni Company. I’d saved it for November, in fact, and couldn’t wait to get started.
The reading experience? Well, it featured highlights and lowlights, really. But before we get into all that, here’s the gist of it from the publisher:
For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.
A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life-altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: ‘A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.’ The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves — the bitter and the sweetness of life itself. (Goodreads)
So we’ve seen Valentine before — twice, in fact. It’s been three years since I joined Ms. Roncalli on her adventures, and . . . well, I needed a refresher. In fact, though I apparently enjoyed both books immensely in 2009 and 2010, I couldn’t have told you much about them.
Not a good sign, I guess.
Once I got back on board, though, I was ready to ride that Italian-infused train for hours. I spent portions of this novel completely lost in Trigiani’s world and language, falling in love with Gianluca along with Valentine and reveling in their short — but happy — engagement. I loved the family Christmas, the dynamics and intricacies involved with creating beautiful shoes, and the obvious love the families share for one another.
But somewhere along the line, everything just . . . started to derail. Fall flat. Become quite dull. My relationship with Valentine deteriorated when I realized how she was determined to assert her independence no matter the cost — which could include her husband.
It all just seemed . . . unnecessary. And was painful to read.
But honestly, I don’t have warring emotions about this story. I read it quickly on my honeymoon, grabbing long passages here and there, and I adored much of it — especially Trigiani’s descriptions of the loving, complicated Roncalli clan — but still felt it lacked an emotional component that usually hooks me on stories laced with family dynamics.
The plot twist toward the end felt like a gut-punch — in a sour way. I understood it, but it just . . . made me angry. And this after Valentine had already begun to come across as pushy, bossy, negative, unfeeling. I really hardened toward her, and that feeling lingered long after I’d closed the last page.
Longstanding fans of the Valentine series will want to see how their heroine fared, but I ended the story feeling rather deflated. I believe Trigiani concluded the series in a realistic way, and Valentine certainly did evolve as a character, but I can’t help but feel disappointed we didn’t get a more fulfilling send-off.
3.5 out of 5!