Sunday, March 15, 2009

Very Valentine: It Ain't Big Stone Gap, But It'll Do in A Pinch

If you, too, mourned the end of Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series, then listen up! She just released the first book - Very Valentine - in a projected trilogy. The novel contains everything we love about Trigiani -memorable characters; settings so vivid they pop right off the page; lots of humor; and plenty of heart. Don't get me wrong - it's not Big Stone Gap, but this series shows a lot of promise. In the absence of Ava Marie Mulligan and her crowd, it'll do. Quite nicely, in fact.

The story begins with a big, noisy Italian wedding where we meet the colorful Angelini/Roncalli Family. Our narrator is 33-year-old Valentine Roncalli, who offers her status in the book's first paragraph - "I'm not the pretty sister. I'm not the smart sister either. I am the funny one" (1). Although she may not realize it, Valentine is more than the comic relief - she's also a talented designer, who may be the only person capable of saving her family's 100-year-old shoe business.

Since 1903, the Angelini Shoe Company has been a Greenwich Village landmark. Founded by Valentine's Italian grandfather, the shop specializes in crafting wedding shoes from the finest materials the Old World has to offer. Thanks to the finicky fashion world and some financial mismanagement, the family business now totters on the brink of bankruptcy. Selling seems to be the only answer. But Valentine the comedian is deadly serious about one thing: She desperately wants to save the Angelini Shoe Company.

Alfred, Valentine's golden boy/financial whiz of a brother, recommends selling the building, the company's only asset. But Valentine can't stand the thought of losing the shop that has sheltered her since childhood. The only other option is making 10 times the profits they do now. Considering the crumbling economy and the finicky fashion world, it's an impossible task. Valentine refuses to give up, even though it angers Alfred. She simply can't sell her dream, can't watch her family's history pass on to some greedy investor. To save the business, she comes up with a plan, a plan that will take her to Tuscany, where the roots of her family tree remain firmly planted. There, she hopes to find her way in both her professional and personal lives. But what will nurturing her passion really mean? Will it require losing the man she loves? Or selling the business she may not be able to salvage? And, always, there's her family in all its loud, fractious glory - will the squabble over Angelini Shoe Company be its ruin, too?

Set amid the glitz and glamour of New York, Very Valentine lacks the hometown feel that makes the Big Stone Gap stories so appealing. It's heartwarming, nonetheless, just in a different sort of way. Like its predecessors, Very Valentine charms because of its characters. They're quirky, colorful and so ordinary that the Roncalli Family could be your own. Details about shoe-making add interest, although I got a little irritated with all the description of what I consider to be Trigiani's Holy Trinity - food, fashion and architecture. I also, at times, tired of Valentine's brash personality. Still and all, Very Valentine's a charming debut to what promises to be another luscious family saga by the talented Adriana Trigiani.

Grade: B

2 comments:

  1. I read Trigiani books some years ago, and liked it. Then I never did think to check if she had more books but will do so now :)

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  2. I love Trigiani's books and loved Very Valentine. I was so happy to hear it was going to be a series! Waiting is going to be the hardest thing!

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