For more than one hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This ancient business partnership provides a twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the schoolteacher-turned-shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.
But after the wedding celebrations are over, Valentine wakes up to the reality of juggling the demands of a new business and the needs of her new family. Confronted with painful 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." Now the proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves—the bitter and the sweet of life itself.
"The big Christmas Eve moon appeared out of nowhere, like the diamond on my hand. From the roof of the Angelini Shoe Company, as far as I could see, it seemed the world had stopped spinning." (1) "You would think after the Feast of Seven Fishes, sweet timbale, cannolis, and cookies that we wouldn't have any more room to stuff down one more bite. But our family wasn't done eating until the overflowing nut bowls, nutcrackers, and silver picks had been placed on the dining room table. Somehow, there was always room for nuts." (42) "I hope I wasn't too rough tonight. I can be a little opinionated," Feen said in a rare moment of self-examination. "You know I live alone and don't have anybody to talk to day in and day out, so when I get an audience, I don't modulate." (55-56) "I've noticed that in America you think you can have everything your heart desires on your own terms." "Isn't that the definition of happiness?" "In Italy, we look at things with a little more common sense. A sense of reality, if you want to call it that..." (103) "It's in you, like it was in your grandfather and your grandmother. Sometimes we forget that talent is a gift and we take it for granted. But it's important. You have a gift, and you should always be a guardian of your art." (136) "If that's what you want, then leave me now. I don't want to be your butler, or your cook, or your tanner. I want to be your husband. For me, that means that I guard what you hold precious, I stand with you, I work with you, I make sure you have rest when you need it, I open the books and we figure out the finances, I build a space where you can create and I can help you get your creations out into the world." (163) "There. He said it. Italy was home. Not Perry Street, not Youngstown's Main Street - but Arezzo in Tuscany. He couldn't tell me how much he missed being in Italy, but he didn't have to - I could see it, I could feel it. My husband wanted to take Angelini shoes back to Italy, but he wanted it to be my idea." (191) "What kind of factory was this?" I asked. "They made pasta. It was called the Supreme Macaroni Company." "I like it," I said. "But you're not making macaroni, Valentine." "It doesn't matter. It's a place, not a product. Besides, I like macaroni." (209) "...I have no desire to go anywhere else or do anything else ever again." "If only you meant that." "I do mean it." "Until your American ambition comes rushing back like a fever." "You think my ambition is a disease." "No, I'm proud of you. But sometimes it overtakes you." "Not when I'm looking at the Mediterranean Sea." (242-243) If I had to go back and pinpoint the moment I fell in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, I know it was for sure when I saw him press leather for the first time. His hands smooth and drape leather skillfully. He has a command of the delicate - he can do the smallest detail work - and yet he can lift and cut and press and roll with strength of purpose. He's an artist. (274) Once family, always family. And once a wife, forever one, even in divorce. I had to share Gianluca with Mirella. It was the Italian way. (304) "The only time I let go of the pain is when I'm creating." (319)
What I Liked
Culture - food, family, language, customs, dialogue, humor, etc...it's here...all of it and more. There were several times I laughed out loud at the dialogue.
Aunt Feen - she reminds me of Stephanie Plum's Grandma Mazur...very opinionated, crazy, and verbal. This family - they are what Trigiani does so well...you feel as if you're at a family reunion...and that you've actually met these people!
What I Didn't Like
predictable - I felt like I'd read this story before...or at least parts of it :(
wedding stuff - there were lots of chapters on wedding prep, honeymoon, and baby stuff ...meh
The Ending - the house, the Bret foreshadowing, how everything seemed to fall together so smoothly despite enormous challenges?
The pace - one of the fastest through the years books I've ever read. I needed more...more detail, more time, more build up.
Because The Supreme Macaroni Company is part of a series, I certainly wouldn't skip it...but I'm not so sure it's one that you can read and feel a connection to the characters if you haven't read the others.