Despite its girth, Trigiani’s latest saga of Italian life lies flat on the page.
A portrait of early 20th-century Italian immigration, the story starts with two children in the Italian Alps. In one mountain village, serious, hardworking Enza lives with her large family; in another, rascal Ciro and his brother Eduardo are orphans at the convent. When 16-year-old Ciro travels to Enza’s village to dig the grave of her little sister, the two meet for the first time, and Enza falls in love. But soon after, Ciro is sent to America (he caught the priest kissing a girl) to apprentice as a shoemaker. Trigiani’s novels often bask in Italian culture, and this latest is no exception, taking place during the great wave of Italian immigration. New York’s Little Italy is a joyous place, and handsome, outgoing Ciro fits right in. A few years later, Enza and her father go to America (just to make enough money to dig their family out of poverty), and Ciro and Enza briefly meet again. Enza, a talented seamstress, first works in a factory, and then finds her way to becoming a costumer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Life at the Met is a dream for Enza as she works for the great Caruso. Meanwhile, World War I has begun and Ciro leaves behind his comfortable life at the shop (and all the beauties) on Mulberry Street to enlist. In the trenches, he dreams about Enza (though why he never bothered with her before is unclear) while she is getting ready to marry another. Love wins out as Ciro and Enza marry then move to Minnesota to start a business and a family. Much more happens, but Trigiani’s wide rush of plot hardly makes up for a dull heroine and a novel filled with workaday prose.
A long list of life events, without the emotional depth to draw readers in.