Simply Reading: The Shoemaker’s Wife

Adriana Trigiani writes the kinds of stories I really enjoy – books about family and relationships. Her pride in her Italian heritage and her deep sense of family values and integrity shines through in all her novels.

But never more so that in The Shoemaker’s Wife, her latest novel  which is based on the true love story of her grandparents.

Enza Ravinelli and Ciro Lazarotti grow up in an idyllic mountain village in northern Italy in the early days of the 20th century, where they meet when Ciro is hired to dig the grave for Enza’s beloved baby sister. There is an instant bond between them, but fate seems determined to keep them apart. The two young people immigrate to American (separately), and although their paths continue to cross something always keeps them from getting together.

I am so enjoying getting to know these two people, and getting this glimpse of life in American in those days pre and post WWI. It was an amazing time for many people who care here from different countries and suddenly had so many opportunities available for them. Though Enza and Ciro had both hoped to stay in American just long enough to earn enough money to build a better life in Italy, American soon became more home to them than even the village they had loved so much.

This is a great story on many levels, and even though I’m pretty sure they’ll get together in the end, I’m eagerly reading to see what happens in between.

 

 

The Ravenous Reader Turns to Romance

Sometimes the Ravenous Reader is really the Romantic Reader.

Sometimes I just need to read an old-fashioned, feel-good love story with a happy ending.

Sure, the heroine might suffer some heartache along the way.

There might be misunderstandings, even a few broken dreams.

But in the end, everyone gets to have the thing that makes them the happiest.

Sigh.

What’s not to like about that?

So I’ve been gobbling up Maryann McFadden’s The Book Lover. This pretty paperback came in the mail awhile ago, and somehow got buried at the bottom of a stack of review books. My friend mentioned reading it, and called it a “really sweet story about books and love.”  It tells the story of two women – a young writer mourning the loss of her infant son, and an older woman who owns a bookstore in a small New Jersey town – whose lives intersect in ways that benefit them both. It’s a book about having dreams and holding on to them, about losing love but finding it again, about the support of friends and how that can change a life. It’s well written, charming, and uplifting, the kind of book that’s hard to put down because you want to find out what will happen to these people you’ve come to care about.

I’ve got about 25 pages left to go, so I’m about to take a break from my morning’s work, make a cup of tea, and curl up on this rainy afternoon and see how it all turns out.

Reading Spaces

Seating nook in the bedroom of our new house. We’ll need comfier chairs, I think 🙂

We bought a new house over the weekend, and one of the features my husband and I instantly loved was the corner nook between two windows in the master bedroom. We envisioned two cozy chairs with a small table between and an ottoman for propping your feet. We imagined ourselves there in the mornings, lingering over our coffee with books in hand. I see myself retreating there of an evening, when Jim is absorbed in television, settling in with magazines or the iPad.

I can read just about anywhere. When I was little, the neighbors joked about my habit of reading while walking to school, and I’m sure my mother lived in fear that I would fail to look up from the page and check traffic before crossing the street. Before the days of cell phones, I carried books in my purse to read while standing in line at the grocery store. I’ve been known to snatch a few paragraphs while waiting a stop lights.

Even though I can fall deeply into my book no matter where I am, I love reading most when I can ensconce myself into one of those special spaces that seem to lend themselves just to reading. Spaces like the tiny attic room in the house where we lived when I was born, like my childhood bedroom where I could sprawl on the bed surrounded by stuffed animals, like the back porch of our house here, where I spent many hours reading while my infant son napped peacefully inside and now sit on summer mornings with my little dog at my feet.

So I’m excited to have this new reading space to enjoy, wondering which books will be read there over the years and what memories will be attached to them. Of course now that we’ve bought the house there will be all the legal issues and paperwork to deal with. Hopefully it will go smoothly, because the housing market has simply exploded around here lately, with multiple people bidding on the same properties, necessitating calls to places like lawyers.com. I don’t anticipate the need for intellectual property law, but one never knows.

With reading being such an important part of my life, reading spaces are always special.

How about you? Where are some of your favorite reading spaces?

Simply Reading: The World Without You

In the social media surrounding the book blogging world, people often celebrate “book birthdays” – the day a book is released to the public.

Today, Joshua Henkin’s novel The World Without You was born.

I was privileged to read an ARC of the novel several months ago, but decided to honor it on it’s actual birthday so you could readily get your hands on it.

The World Without You is the story of a modern family who gather at their summer home in the Berkshires on July 4, 2005, to memorialize their only son, Leo, a journalist who was kidnapped and killed while on assignment in Iraq. The novel looks at the way this event has affected each member of Leo’s family – his parents who struggle to make their 40 year marriage continue working;  his three sisters (Clarissa who is dealing with infertility, Lily, an angry, hot tempered attorney; and Noelle, a born-again Orthodox Jew who has traveled from Israel with her husband and four children); and his wife, Thisbe, who brings Leo’s three year old son from California for this event.

As you might imagine, tensions abound in this very disparate group of people, bound together by blood and grief. Henkin is very good at examining personal and family relationships, at creating characters you can identify with and not only care about, but wonder about, and looking at the way a certain event changes them. He did it extremely well in his novel Matrimony, and he has succeeded in that effort once again with The World Without You.

Happy book birthday to a fine, new novel.

Derelict

I did take some time for porch sitting with coffee, cake, and a book.

How can it be that I have not posted since Sunday?

Especially when I have been reading some very wonderful things??

Like Chris Bohjalian’s The Sandcastle Girls?

And Natalie Bakopoulos’ The Green Shore?

Monday evening we came home after a lovely visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, and the world has been spinning at 78 rpm ever since. (If you don’t understand that analogy, than you are very young indeed.) Nothing of great portent has happened, – it’s just Life.

I have lots to say about these two books, especially about The Sandcastle Girls, which affected me SO deeply that there were times I had to put it down and go walk around outside for a while to clear my head and my heart. This book has given me an intense new perspective on my own family history, and I’m so grateful that Chris Bohjalian has written about the Armenian genocide with such conviction. It’s a book I need to re-read at some point, when I can try and separate myself from the historical aspects and pay more attention to it’s obvious literary merits.

It’s also a book I want to send to all my cousins, with the inscription…”This is where we came from, and there but for the grace of God, go we.”

If I’ve intrigued you at all, then go here and order it.

And I promise more to come about this book when Life settles down a bit.

Until then…

Happy Reading.

The Sunday Salon: The Promise of Reading

Imprinted on my mind and heart is a picture of my grandson Connor and his mommy, lying side by side on the quilted floor of his colorful play area this morning while she reads story after story and he waves his tiny arms and legs in pure delight. He studies each picture with a solemn concentration uncommon to six month old babies and already recognizes favorite phrases from the most oft-repeated books.

He seems to be a natural born book lover, and while I’d like to take some of the genetic credit, it really doesn’t matter where the love of story comes from. What matters is that his parents are bright enough to recognize it and take full advantage of it.

Because, of course, reading together is about much more than just one particular story. It’s about sharing imagination and experience, about finding pathways to new information and ideas, about creating a bond with someone you love.

Fresh from watching Connor’s morning story time, I find Beth Kephart’s reflections on Alice Ozma’s book about this very experience. The Reading Promise; My Father and the Books We Shared is, according to Ozma, “about the act of reading and the time spent doing it. The books are important but the conversations they started and the bonds they created are what really matter.”

And so in a world where children are over scheduled, under loved, bombarded with noise and flash, Ozma extolls the power of sharing what Beth Kephart calls, “time spent kindly together.”

It’s a gift I wish every child could have, in every place and every nation. I believe the world would be a kinder and more thoughtful place if they did.