The Shoemaker’s Wife: A Novel by Adriana Trigiani

Ciro and Enza, two Italian immigrants, find each other and a future in Adriana Trigiani’s epic historical novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife.  in 1905,  seven year old Ciro and his brother, Eduardo, are left at a convent in Italy by their distraught mother who can nolonger care for her sons.  Her husband had died in America while trying to make a new life for his family.  The nuns become their substitute mothers and Eduardo takes to the religious life, while Ciro wants more from life.  He meets 15 year old Enza when hired to dig the grave of her little sister in a nearby mountain village.  Their attraction for each other during this difficult time begins a love relationship that spans many miles and many years.

Adriana Trigiani spent twenty years writing this story that tells the enchanting love story of her grandparents, who came to America.  The hardships they endure as they search for a way in this country are overcome through their determination to succeed and strength of character.  The historical details of the Metropolitan Opera House in the early twentieth century, and Enza’s relationship with Enrico Caruso for whom she sews costumes and cooks traditional Italian delights add to the delight of this story.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

>Gemmy Hardy doesn’t remember having a home.  Orphaned at a young age, Gemma is taken from Iceland to Scotland to be with her uncle.  After forming a close bond with him he also passes on, leaving her in the care of an indifferent aunt.  Her scholarship to a boarding school seems like a blessing, but doesn’t turn out that way.  Along the way, Gemma maintains her dignity and self-worth, standing up to those who try to belittle her.  This practice is noble, but doesn’t always work in her favor.  When her dreadful school closes, she desperately grasps at a position in the Orkney Islands to be the au pair to the young niece of a Mr. Sinclair, a wealthy man with a secret.  For the first time, Gemma is treated with respect, as an equal.

Sound familiar?  In The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Livesey has taken on the challenge of writing a modern interpretation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Rewriting such a classic is a difficult undertaking and, except for a couple of small weak spots, Livesey has come through with shining colors.  She follows the plot quite closely with adjustment for the setting of post-war Scotland.  The true triumph, though is the feel of the book.  We follow along as Gemma faces one difficulty after another and soldiers on.  The book expresses perfectly a dark undercurrent of rootlessness without succumbing to despair.  The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a beautiful story about the strength of the human spirit.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

>by Winifred Watson
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a charming story originally written in 1938.  As Miss Pettigrew arrives at Delysia LaFosse’s flat to interview for what she thinks is a governess position, she is whirled into the dizzying pace of Miss LaFosse’s social life.  Even before a how-di-do, Miss LaFasse presents Miss Pettigrew with a problem that must be solved immediately.  The man in her bedroom must be gotten out without a trace of his being there and he mustn’t know Miss LaFosse desires him to leave. Now, before I go any farther, you must know that Miss Pettigrew is a dowdy non-worldly woman who blushes at even the thought of a couple’s kiss, while Miss LaFosse is a world wise woman with three men on the line.  With determination (this may be her last chance at a job) Miss Pettigrew resolves to do what she is asked, even if it goes against her upbringing.   Almost before the breeze of the man’s passing is gone, a second man appears at her door with great suspicion & searches the flat for evidence of the other man.  Miss Pettigrew doesn’t miss a beat when he finds a cigar butt in the kitchen, “‘Young man…if there’s one thing I completely abominate it’s the effeminate type of man that snaps round a house like an old, peeking busybody….If I want to smoke cheroots, I’ll smoke cheroots,…Have one.  I can recommend them.’ Miss Pettigrew opened her bag.  She took out a worn packet of cheroots.”  As Miss Pettigrew continues to help Delysia out of her many self made predicaments, Delysia turns Miss Pettigrew into a beautiful companion for her day filled with social affairs.  This Cinderella, from rags to almost riches, story is a delight to read.  I’ve heard the movie is fun too.

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

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Life in the Canadian wilderness with a handsome Mountie(Royal Canadian Mounted Police) is the story behind Mrs. Mike.  This riveting lovestory was written in 1947 by Benedict and Nancy Freedman after Katherine MaryFlannigan shared with them the true adventures of her life.  She emigrated to Bostonfrom Irelandin the early 1900’s with her family.  Dueto her poor health she needed to leave Bostonfor a dryer climate.  Her mother sent herto Calgary, Alberta to her Uncle John’s ranch where shemeets Sergeant Michael Flannigan of the Northwest Mounted.  This handsome, self-assured policeman whosupervised a large segment of the Canadian wilderness falls for 16 year oldKatherine Mary and asks her uncle for permission to marry her.
 Their life togetheris a beautiful blend of romance, adventure, tragedy, and history.  The courage and humanity of both Katherineand Mike is truly heroic as they dealt with the native Indians, sickness anddeath.  Mike had to be a doctor and judgeto the brave people that settled this cold, isolated country.  Through the trials of living we see theshared joys and sorrows of this committed couple both to their marriage and tothe job that called them to this wild land. There are many tragic scenes in this book that will stay with you for along time, but the way this couple continue through them will also touch yoursoul.

Recently the Freedman’s have written two sequels tothis book from long ago,  The Search for Joyful and Kathy Little Bird

Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson

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In Dorothy Koomson’s latest book Goodnight Beautiful, Nova and Mal have been best friends since childhood, so when Mal and his wife Stephanie are unable to have a child of their own, they beg Nova to act as a surrogate mother. After much soul searching, Nova reluctantly agrees to help her friend, despite many reservations about her ability to give up a child and about how the situation will affect their long-standing friendship. Stephanie becomes jealous and resentful of the ties between Nova and Mal and forces Mal to abandon their plans for a child, leaving Nova pregnant and raising their child alone. Tragedy strikes and Nova must decide whether to let Mal back into her life for the sake of her son. The story is told from the perspectives of Leo, Nova and Stephanie and their viewpoints are touching and heartbreaking—a very moving story about love and family.

Another title available at the library by Koomson is My Best Friend’s Girl.

Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

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Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr follows four friends as they support each other through the biggest challenges of their lives. After a terrifying date experience, Cassie is ready to give up entirely on dating. She can’t refuse, however, to a budding friendship with the burly biker who came to her rescue. Julie married her high school sweetheart and quickly added three children to her family. Their life is full of love, but barren when it comes to money, causing conflict between a practical wife and an overly-optimistic husband. Marty married Joe for love, but is tired of picking up after him and of his lack of grooming. Suddenly her faithless but clean-cut ex is looking pretty good. Beth is quietly struggling with her health, putting everything else to the side in the meantime, but sometimes love is found in the most unexpected places.

A light story of friendship and love, Summer in Sonoma also demonstrates how the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

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Meredith Delinn’s rich and fabulous lifestyle comes to a quick end when her husband is arrested for stealing billions of dollars from his investors. Assets are seized and Meredith faces her own legal battle concerning what she knew about her husband’s business. Homeless, alone and without money, Meredith turns to her childhood friend Connie, even though they have not spoken in years. They head to Connie’s family home in Nantucket, where both women have issues to deal with–Connie’s husband passed away and she is learning to live without him, and Meredith is examining her former life and how to move forward, despite being the focus of hatred because of her husband’s actions. Both women reflect upon the past and their childhoods as a way to cope with the present and welcome the future. Silver Girl is a touching story of relationships, friendship and love. If you enjoy Silver Girl, you might also enjoy The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg and Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

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Night Road is the story of the Farraday family–parents Jude and Miles and twins Mia and Zach. Lexi Baill is a new student at their school–abandoned by her addict mother, she is taken in by an elderly aunt after living in a series of foster homes, and does not fit into the upper-class school. On her first day at school, she becomes friends with Mia, eventually becoming a part of the Farraday family. She learns to love her aunt but also revels in her close ties to the Farraday family, a family that Lexi considers ideal. Both Lexi and Mia blossom in their friendship, and along the way Lexi and Zach fall in love. The trio attend a senior-year party, where all three make poor choices that result in a tragic accident. The repercussions send shock waves through the lives of all of the characters.

Kristen Hannah is a master at creating believable characters facing complex situations. Jude is a mother who is hesitant to allow her children independence, Miles attempts to strike a reasonable balance between the demands of his teens and the fears of his wife, Mia is dealing with typical teen insecurities, Zach is the golden boy for whom success comes easily and Lexi struggles to come to terms with her hopes for the future and the realities of her life. The characters must learn to deal with the tragedy they suffer and move on with their lives. This is a story about motherhood, family, love and loss and tells the story of how a family begins to find their way on the road to hope, healing and forgiveness.

The Home for Broken Hearts by Rowan Coleman

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Since the death of her husband in a car accident, Ellen Woods’ life has been a struggle, financially and emotionally. She centers her life around her 11 year old son Charlie. When money becomes a problem, her sister convinces her to take boarders into her home. Sabine–a German woman working in London, Allegra–an elderly romance novelist, and Matt–a writer for a men’s magazine, all move into Ellen’s home and each begins to contribute to changes in Ellen’s life. As all of the characters begin to know and care about each other, they come to help each other with their individual problems. The characters are well-developed and interesting. This is a heartwarming story about friendships and family, and how family can be comprised of those you love, not just those that are related by blood. The Home for Broken Hearts is a sweet and charming novel–one that makes the reader care about the characters.

Manhattan Public Library owns several books written by Rowan Coleman–check our catalog for availability!

Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

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Juliette Fay’s second novel is a touching portrait of a family learning to survive divorce, junior high and the complexities of dating and relationships. Deep Down True tells the story of Dana and her two children, a year after divorce. As she begins to adjust to being a single parent, her daughter tries to negotiate the minefield that is junior high, her son misses his father’s regular presence, Dana obtains a new job and tries to re-enter the world of dating, and her teen-aged niece, Alder, enters the scene with her own set of issues. Fay presents engaging, honest and likable characters in a realistic situation, confronting their problems with humor, compassion and caring. This is a heart-warming story about the joys and heartbreak of parenting and the ties of love that bind a family together.

Fay’s first novel is titled Shelter Me.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

> Eleanor Brown has written a wonderfully literate debut novel in The Weird Sisters. Three sisters, Rose (Rosaline), Bean (Bianca), and Cordy (Cordelia), have simultaneously returned to their childhood home in a small college town in Ohio. They move back in with their Shakespearean expert father and absent-minded mother with the professed intent of helping their parents through their mother’s fight with breast cancer. Each sister has actually found that the world wasn’t what she thought it would or should be. Cordy wanders for years and finally heads home when she finds herself pregnant with no wish to tell the father. Bean has been living beyond her means in New York and flees when she is caught embezzling. Rose never left home and continues to care for her family long after it is good for them or for her.

The Weird Sisters is narrated as a creative blend of the voices of the three sisters and provides insight into their relationship with each other and with their parents, making this a great read for fans of women’s fiction. The entire family’s love of books and reading also makes this an appealing read for all bibliophiles, not just those who love all things Shakespeare.