Book review: ‘The Supreme Macaroni Company’ by Adriana Trigiani

Supreme Macaroni CompanyThis 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!

Pub: Nov. 26, 2013 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Don’t Sing At The Table’ by Adriana Trigiani

Before she was an acclaimed and popular author, Adriana Trigiani was someone much more basic — much more familiar — to all of us: a granddaughter. In her memoir Don’t Sing At The Table, Trigiani recounts the inspiring and fascinating lives of her two strong-willed, larger-than-life grandmothers. Blessed with not one but two powerful female role models, Trigiani grew up listening to their stories and learning from the trials they endured. And as she grows and matures and experiences life herself, the lessons of Lucy Spada and Viola Trigiani begin to take on new meaning.

Don’t Sing At The Table reads like a love letter to the women she loves so dearly. I saw much of myself in her pages, remembering the summers I spent with Gram and Maw Maw, my maternal and paternal grandmothers. My family — warm and complex, like so many — has long been anchored by the lessons the women on both sides have taught.

It’s hard not to warm to Lucy, an Italian immigrant who lands in Minnesota with her husband. After his sudden death, she is left to care for three children in a foreign country while trying to keep her own business afloat. In another corner of the U.S. is Viola Trigiani, a warm and hard-working woman who is an equal partner in the clothing factory she runs with her husband. The lives of both women are incredibly inspirational, considering the heights to which they soared at a time when women were still taught their place was “in the home.”

And the women were at home, caring for their kids . . . but they were everywhere else, too.

The ladies’ influence on their granddaughter, Adriana, is evident and moving. While Don’t Sing At The Table opens with long and detailed accounts of Lucy and Viola’s marriages and lives before little Adriana would ever open her eyes in this world, the latter half of the book is framed around Adriana’s own opportunities and the lessons she learns by their example.

Though I was very interested in Lucy and Viola’s lives, I wish there had been a bit more of Adriana in the memoir’s opening chapters. It felt like an information dump — here is the woman we’re talking about; here’s what she looked like; here’s what her life was like. I wanted a little more emotion. Some intrigue. A bit of back story and, in time, better integration of the lessons they learned against the backdrop of Adriana’s own experiences.

But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise warm-hearted tale. I loved the inclusion of family photos in each chapter, which really helped to bring Viola and Lucy to life, and the way that much of their advice would still hold true today. As a reader of Trigiani’s books, too, it was so fun to see the way Lucy and Viola were integrated into the author’s novels. Fans of her stories will delight in learning more about the women who inspired and helped shape Trigiani’s memorable characters and settings.

And if nothing else, it’ll inspire you to think of your own grandmothers . . . and, if you’re blessed to do so, give them a call. It’s fascinating to think of where we came from — the choices our ancestors made that landed us to sit right here, right now.

It’s a thought as large as the universe.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061958956 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Brava, Valentine’ by Adriana Trigiani

After her beloved grandmother upends their lives by marrying her longtime love in Tuscany, Valentine Roncalli returns to New York City with a heavy heart. Though happy Teodora has fallen in love all over again with Dominic, she’s anxious about running the family business, Angelini Shoe Company, alone — or, more accurately, with her difficult brother, Alfred.

With a business background and a no-nonsense attitude, Alfred is the lone boy in the Roncalli’s sea of women — and he is determined to take Angelini Shoes to the next level. Valentine is hard at work on her latest creation, an adorable and affordable flat shoe, and must relinquish some control to her brother. Even though that’s basically the last thing she’s comfortable doing.

Heating up Valentine’s life behind the scenes are the letters drifting in from Gianluca, a handsome Italian tanner with whom Valentine has done business in the past. Infatuated with Valentine and sending her enough romantic prose to keep a serious flame burning, Gianluca probes our heroine to consider his feelings for her . . . and her feelings for him. Only she doesn’t quite know what they are.

Adriana Trigiani’s Brava, Valentine boasts a narrator who is, in short, afraid of failure. In business, yes — Angelini Shoes has been running for decades on the back of her family’s hard work. And in her family, who needs her — particularly after her father’s health concerns. But most of all — most of all — in love. Because after the nastiness of her fall-out with Roman and the disintegration of her serious relationship with Bret Fitzpatrick, her first love and current business partner, she’s learned she can’t trust anyone but herself.

Trigiani’s strength here — and with all her novels — is the impeccable way in which she describes both characters and scenes. These people are realistic, interesting and tangible; as a reader, I felt like I could have jumped into the factory to lend a hand with some of the lush designs. Whether describing scenery (Tuscany, Buenos Aires, New York), food (all types of local cuisine) or shoes (stacked heels, luxe fabrics, impeccable designs), I was practically drooling.

After falling in love with Very Valentine in 2009, this one was far from disappointing. The Roncalli family is big, boisterous, complicated and riddled with family secrets. They’re fascinating to read about, faults and all. Our title character is, of course, my favorite person in the book; I really adore Valentine. She’s complicated and a little broken inside, but who isn’t? And her struggles with love — letting it in, seeing it for what it is — were both painful and uplifting. We’ve probably all been there, too.

Brava, Valentine is a highly readable, highly delicious sequel to a book I absolutely loved. Seeking romance, adventure, delectable scenery and a host of lovable and complicated characters? Well, I’ve got a series for you. And, you know, that paperback cover is pretty much to die for.

These books make you want to hop on a plane right now, I’ll tell you that. And if, like me, you’re yearning to visit (or return to!) Italy, HarperCollins is giving away a seven-day tour and trip for one winner and a friend to Florence, Arezzo, Pisa and Tuscany. Go for the delicious pizza and pasta, the gorgeous art or the hot Italian men (and I can personally attest to the hotness). Details are available here! (I’m all signed up, y’all — may the best (wo)man win!)

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061257087 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours

Book review: ‘Very Valentine’ by Adriana Trigiani

very_valentine Cobblers, Greenwich Village, and a big, Italian family — oh my! Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine is one of those engrossing, fulfilling novels that made me wish I could step right through the pages and settle onto the characters’ rooftop garden, joining in all the family antics and trying to sort out the messy, loving world that is the Roncallis’ lives.

Valentine Roncalli is 33, unmarried and living with her grandmother in an old building in Greenwich Village — but it’s not anywhere near as sad as it may sound. Teodora and Valentine run Angelini Shoe Company, a business that’s created custom-made wedding shoes since Valentine’s great-grandfather came to America from Italy last century. Though the business has fallen into tough financial times, Valentine and Teodora work tirelessly to create beautiful, sturdy pieces of art that still bring in the brides.

Valentine is content that her life with Gram is moving in a steady direction, even if she secretly hopes to burst beyond the title of an “apprentice” and create new, innovative designs that take a step beyond her great-grandfather’s original sketches. Her love life is at a stalemate — a point made quite obvious as she sits at her baby sister’s lavish wedding — and she doesn’t see that improving any time soon . . . until she meets Roman Falconi, a chef and restaurant owner, in a pretty unconventional way.

Soon, Valentine is thinking more and more about her life and the steps she’s taken to get where she is — and wondering more about the destiny of Angelini Shoes. A trip to Italy, with its general restorative powers, transforms the way she sees . . . everything. And coming home to Greenwich Village can never be the same.

Quite honestly, I’m in love with Very Valentine. Nothing I crave in an awesome novel was missing here, including a big, loving family with their own set of issues; fresh, dynamic and fleshed-out characters; beautiful, lush descriptions that transform New York City and Tuscany into mystical places you’d see in dreams; romance and a love affair that, while sweeping, are realistic and endearing. The dialogue was fantastic, and I loved the interplay between Valentine and her sisters Tess and Jaclyn. While oldest brother and financier Alfred definitely got on my nerves, I even felt a little for him, too. And to see Valentine and her grandmother’s close relationship was incredibly heartwarming.

Basically, this book was something new — as I flipped page after page, I didn’t have that icky feeling of “Haven’t I read this all somewhere before?” I mean, Valentine makes shoes. I can tell you quite seriously I have yet to find a cobbler as a main character in any of the fiction I’ve read. Valentine is a strong, intelligent woman who isn’t waiting for love to come and “save” her from her life . . . she makes things happen for herself. Romance is the cherry on top of the dessert, not the cake and ice cream itself. I loved that about it — and her.

This book was like the beautiful, well-crafted shoes Valentine herself makes — gorgeous, custom and flawless. I can’t wait to see what happens in Encore, Valentine, the next book in the series, slated to be released in February 2010!

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061257052 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website