Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Belated Valentine

It's a little late to be reviewing Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani, but this book goes well with any leftover chocolate you may have. Valentine Roncalli is 33 and lives and works with her grandmother in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, where the family business of handmaking wedding shoes has continued since 1903. She's dating a chef who owns a restaurant in Little Italy, and all would be well except that the mortgage on their building is coming due, and they have no way to pay it off. If she doesn't come up with a way to buy the building and the business from her grandmother, the building will be sold by Valentine's brother and she'll have to go back to teaching English to high school students in Queens.

I was expecting standard chick lit, especially since the first chapter is a wedding reception featuring relentless banter between the members of the Roncalli family. But Adriana Trigiani went to Italy to research how shoes are crafted, and it shows in the details. She was also inspired by the story of her grandfather, Carlo Bonicelli, who was a shoemaker who dreamed of designing his own shoes. Valentine's stories of growing up Italian in Queens in the 80s make it a bit weightier than most books that have lipstick on the cover.

This is the first of a trilogy; the second one, Brava Valentine, just came out.

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