Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering 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." The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves -- the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.

Warning:  As this title is part of a series, there may be spoilers for those who have not read the earlier novels. The uninitiated who want to avoid plot revelations may want to skip to the break, after the green triple-asterisk marker.

Those familiar with my reviews know that I can be easily drawn in by good cover art.  I don’t completely judge a book by its cover, but this certainly will entice me to take a closer look at the work. A few years ago I was pulled in by the beautifully dressed, lipstick-applying woman on the cover of Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine, the first book in her Valentine trilogy.  Given the opportunity to read the sequel Brava Valentine for TLC Book Tours, I quickly read the first title to prepare for Brava. As seen in my brief November 6, 2010 review, the beginning of this series was a sumptuous, invigorating read.  This continued with Brava Valentine, with enjoyable storytelling and character development.

Years passed, and I looked forward to the final book in the series, which reportedly would be aptly titled Ciao, Valentine. In 2011 Adriana contributed to the delightful Jane Austen Made Me Do It (JAMMDI), which I relished as well. The year 2012 brought Trigiani’s nonfiction The Wisdom of My Grandmothers as well as the highly successful novel The Shoemaker’s Wife. With no sign of Ciao, Valentine, I speculated that the series had been put on hold indefinitely.  In November 2013 The Supreme Macaroni Company was published, but in the business of life I didn’t recognize it for what it was: the final title I had been waiting for.  The cover art was beautiful, but didn’t seem like a Valentine-related image. And of course the title had changed unexpectedly to The Supreme Macaroni Company, which to be honest seemed a bit odd to me.  Nevertheless, when I finally realized this was the third Valentine title, I was pleased it had arrived, despite my confusion.

The story picks up immediately from where it left off in Brava Valentine. Gianluca Vechiarielli has received a positive response to his marriage proposal to the much-younger Valentine Roncalli. She manages to receive this proposal, despite making a very serious mistake moments before that would have certainly put off most marriage suitors.  But the love Gianluca has for Valentine is so great, he forgives her transgression and they move forward to begin a life together as husband and wife, tanner and shoemaker.

Many romantic novels conclude with the wedding of the main characters, but the Vechiarielli/Roncalli ceremony occurs almost halfway through.  And Valentine’s story is more than just a romance. There’s plenty of family drama as this boisterous group of Catholic Italians plans the nuptials of the last Roncalli daughter to be married, and the stakes actually begin to rise shortly after the newlyweds have tied the knot. They find that trying to mix family with their generations-old shoe and tanning businesses is quite difficult. Compromises must be offered and priorities changed in order to keep many relationships and business ventures alive.  Valentine and Gianluca are madly in love, but in order to make their May-December relationship endure, sacrifices had to be made. Initially I felt that Gianluca was being the most sacrificial in the relationship.  This may have been the case, but the difficult decisions he makes come from a place of deep love for his wife, and they prove to be the wisest choices in the end.

*      *     *

The Supreme Macaroni Company is not a roller-coaster thriller of a story. However, it certainly is a page-turning, captivating tale of family, tradition, love and free enterprise. There are a number of unexpected surprises, with one in particular that is simply heartbreaking.  This abrupt tragedy does deepen the story however, bringing a richness that only loss can provide. And Trigiani takes her time with this aspect of the plot. While it comes near the conclusion, her pacing shows her respect for the characters and the investment her readers have made in them over the course of three novels.   While bittersweet, the ending is quite satisfying and at times deeply insightful. I found myself literally taking notes, as I am sure I will have to endure a similar pain someday.

From Very Valentine to The Supreme Macaroni Company, this three-part series has been a delight from beginning to end.  Other than JAMMDI, it has been my only exposure to Trigiani’s work. Her style is very accessible, yet at times profound.  Romance is an aspect of her novels, but isn’t overly racy and is not the dominant theme. The Valentine trilogy is about multi-faceted relationships.  Family. Decades-old traditions.  Religion, culture and so much more.  Regardless of age, gender, faith or ethnicity, many readers will be able to relate to the themes presented here. The Valentine collection has been a splendid treat, one that I will look back on fondly for years to come.

A Few Fun Notes

The Title - In case you were wondering, the asymmetric title The Supreme Macaroni Company does indeed come to make sense at a certain point in the novel.  While I would have preferred a similar Valentine-based name for the book, Macaroni Company does not come without foundation.

Pinterest - Trigiani makes reference to a plethora of reality-based places and public figures.  This made it easy for me to transport myself into her world.  I was able to conjure up images of the celebrities, restaurants and landscapes that dotted her narrative.  As a fun project, I put together a Pinterest board with images I had in my head for the book.  Check out what I’ve found, but warning: Several of the pins may be spoilers for some.  You may want to check out the board after reading at least the first two books in the series.

Follow Laura's board The Supreme Macaroni Company
Novel Ideas (Warning: Spoiler Pins!) on Pinterest.

Audiobook - Separate from the hard copy that was sent to me from the publisher for review purposes, I also used a copy of the audiobook version from another source.  This allowed me to continue "reading" the book, even as I ran errands in my minivan.  The novel was read by Cassandra Campbell, an accomplished actress, director, and teacher as well as a voice-over artist.  Ms. Campbell's performance is superb. Given the different nationalities and generations represented among her "cast", she does a remarkable job in characterizing each personality.  Cassandra is outstandingly adept at switching between accents, as even within the bounds of New York you will find different intonations among American people groups. Her performance of the Italian Gianluca was particularly informative, as the elocution I had going in my head initially was not consistent with this foreign accent.

This review is a part of a larger blog tour, sponsored by TLC Book Tours.  For more perspectives on The Supreme Macaroni Company, stop by the following sites:

Tuesday, May 6th: More Than Just Magic
Wednesday, May 7th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 8th: nightlyreading
Friday, May 9th: Literary Lindsey
Monday, May 12th: The Infinite Shelf
Thursday, May 15th: Books, Books Everywhere!
Monday, May 19th: Books on the Table
Monday, May 26th: Calico Critic
Thursday, May 29th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, June 2nd: Open Book Society
Thursday, June 5th: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Monday, June 9th: Patricia’s Wisdom
TBD: The Bookmark Blog

About the Author

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Times bestseller The Shoemaker’s Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very ValentineBrava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She has written the screenplay for her debut novel Big Stone Gap, which she will also direct. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Find out more about Adriana at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 3: Kindle
Book 1: Kindle
Book 2: Kindle
The Shoemaker's Wife

1 comment:

  1. This series sounds really amazing to me! I'm glad you enjoyed this third installment. From what I've read, Trigiani really seems to have an insight into people and relationships.

    Thanks for being on the tour!



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