Lucia, Lucia

( 101 )

Overview

It is 1950 in glittering, vibrant New York City. Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a prosperous Italian grocer in Greenwich Village. The postwar boom is ripe with opportunities for talented girls with ambition, and Lucia becomes an apprentice to an up-and-coming designer at chic B. Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue. Engaged to her childhood sweetheart, the steadfast Dante DeMartino, Lucia is torn when she meets a handsome stranger who promises a life of uptown luxury that ...

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Lucia, Lucia

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Overview

It is 1950 in glittering, vibrant New York City. Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a prosperous Italian grocer in Greenwich Village. The postwar boom is ripe with opportunities for talented girls with ambition, and Lucia becomes an apprentice to an up-and-coming designer at chic B. Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue. Engaged to her childhood sweetheart, the steadfast Dante DeMartino, Lucia is torn when she meets a handsome stranger who promises a life of uptown luxury that career girls like her only read about in the society pages. Forced to choose between duty to her family and her own dreams, Lucia finds herself in the midst of a sizzling scandal in which secrets are revealed, her beloved career is jeopardized, and the Sartoris’ honor is tested.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This heartwarming tale is full of lessons about taking risks in life and love.”
Cosmopolitan

“FAST-MOVING, FUNNY, VISUAL, AND MOVING . . . A vibrant, loving, wistful portrait of a lost time and place. Every page is engrossing and begs us to read the next.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“TRIGIANI’S WRITING IS AS DAZZLING AS LUCIA’S DRESSES.”
USA Today

“COMPELLING . . . A BREEZY READ.”
Entertainment Weekly

“[Trigiani] writes with commanding authenticity about Italian-American life, the landscape of Italy, and New York City. . . . Lucia, her Italian family, her ambitious girlfriends, her colorful boss, and her mysterious lover are colorful, poignant characters, representative of another time, yet as real as today. . . . Trigiani has proved she is a multi-faceted writer whose name and stories will be celebrated for years to come.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Adriana Trigiani’s enchanting new novel will find a warm welcome from every reader who has encountered a fork in the road to love and taken the more perilous path. . . . A testament to the power of familial love and friendship . . . Perhaps [this] is Trigiani’s greatest gift to her reader: the recognition that devotion, loyalty, and forgiveness will ultimately win the day.”
BookPage

“Trigiani creates a compelling story, artfully uniting a snapshot of the past with the present. This bittersweet novel should have broad appeal.”
Library Journal

“Filled to bursting with gorgeous clothes, sumptuous meals, beautiful weather, and the rhapsody of New York City.”
Kirkus Reviews

“You’ll find yourself lost in an Audrey Hepburn movie that was never made.”
—CNNMoney.com

“Delightful . . . Trigiani has artfully woven a wonderful, engaging story that blends the past with the present. Her characters are richly appealing, from her four overprotective brothers to her quick-witted best friend.”
Review Appeal (Franklin, TN)

“[A] heartfelt depiction of homespun characters whose emotions are always very close to the surface . . . Trigiani offers an inviting picture of Italian life as well as a finely detailed appreciation of Old World craftsmanship.”
Booklist

“[A] bustling, sparkling 1950s New York City . . . Trigiani does a wonderful job evoking Lucia’s beloved, homey Greenwich Village and the couture-clad Upper East Side. Vivid, too, are the descriptions of Italian cooking and feasting, and the Sartoris’ storybook hometown in the old country.”
Boston Herald

“This is your perfect summer read. Trust us. Put a good reading light on in your backyard . . . and read your little heart out, deep into the night.”
—Millbrook Voice Ledger (NY)

“Poignant and feeling . . . Readers will laugh with and weep for Lucia and her lost dreams.”
Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
In 1950 Greenwich Village, 25-year-old Lucia has it all: a warm and loving Italian family, a papa with a successful grocery business, an engagement ring from her childhood sweetheart, and best of all, a career she loves as a seamstress and apprentice to a talented dress designer at B. Altman's department store. When Lucia meets a rich, handsome businessman whose ambitions for a luxurious uptown lifestyle match her own, her goals for her future soar even higher. Over the next two years, however, her dreams gradually unravel. Sorvino is well-cast as the narrator of Trigiani's (Milk Glass Moon) first-person tale. She ably conveys the confidence, eagerness, and romantic yearnings of youth, as well as the guilt Lucia suffers when she disappoints her loved ones. Sorvino is also adept at providing voices for a large cast of characters: the rich Italian accent of Lucia's father, the scolding tone of her mother, the shy voice of her sister-in-law and the smooth, movie-star tones of the rich stranger Lucia pins her hopes on. This is an engaging, well-told tale about life's unexpected twists and turns, the ways that even small choices have large repercussions and the hopeful notion that sometimes, when you least expect it, you can find happiness. Simultaneous release with the Random hardcover (Forecasts, July 7). (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Trigiani here leaves the rural Virginia setting of her "Big Stone Gap" trilogy for New York City. Kit, an aspiring playwright, agrees to afternoon tea with "Aunt" Lu, an old, but still elegant, fellow tenant. Kit's casual question about Lu's frequently worn mink coat is rewarded by the story of two pivotal years in Lucia Sartori's life. For the bulk of the novel, we are swept back to Greenwich Village in the early 1950s, where we meet Lucia's family. Beautiful and talented Lucia, who works in the custom dress shop at B. Altman's, wants to retain her maiden name after marriage, continue in a nonfamily business, and delay having children, all taboo for an Italian Catholic. Then she meets the irresistible John Talbot, and Lucia's happy life seems destined to unravel. Trigiani creates a compelling story, artfully uniting a snapshot of the past with the present. This bittersweet novel should have broad appeal. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/03.]-Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Budding playwright Kit Zanetti is invited to tea by her elderly neighbor, and she is amazed at the apartment full of memorabilia. Her question about a beautiful full-length mink coat begins the story of "Aunt Lu's" long and interesting life. Lucia Sartori, the youngest child and only daughter of a prosperous Italian grocer in Greenwich Village in the early '50s, is engaged to marry her childhood sweetheart, Dante DiMartino. Almost on the eve of the wedding, Lucia is shocked to learn that his mother expects her to quit her job as a seamstress at B. Altman's department store to stay at home and help her future mother-in-law and to prepare for the children she is expected to have. Lucia resents having to choose between career and marriage, so she breaks the engagement. Later, she meets suave and debonair John Talbot, who sweeps her off her feet. He gives her a beautiful, full-length mink coat. Only after being jilted at the altar does Lucia learn that he is a con man. After this unfortunate event, Lucia's plans to go to California to pursue her career are thwarted when her mother becomes ill. Now she must decide between love and duty or her own happiness. Finely drawn characters move the story along with warmth and humor, relationships in Lucia's big Italian family are lovingly detailed, and there is a strong sense of place. Readers who enjoyed Trigiani's "Big Stone Gap" trilogy (Random) will find that she again tells an engaging story.-Carol Clark, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
More like a big, sloppy wet kiss to Greenwich Village than anything as mundane and unromantic as a novel: Trigiani's fourth (after Milk Glass Moon, 2002, etc.) starts off in extremely unpromising territory but thankfully doesn't stick with it for long. Narrator Kit is a flighty writer of universally rejected plays and an occasional journalist who lives in the Village and is given to mundane reflections on just how wonderful her neighborhood is. Fortunately, she doesn't have much of a life, so when her neighbor-a charming, gracious old lady everyone calls Aunt Lu-invites her in for some tea and ends up telling Kit the story of her life, Kit has no good reason to say no. In the early 1950s, Lucia Sartori lived with her large Italian family in the Village, where her father and brother ran the beloved Groceria food market. Lucia herself, still in her 20s and considered the neighborhood beauty, worked in the custom clothing section in the grand B.Altman's department store on Fifth Avenue and was engaged to the most promising bachelor around, Dante DeMartino. Spunky Lucia, though, breaks the engagement when she discovers that the DeMartinos expect her to leave work and live with them as a cleaning, cooking, baby-producing housewife. It isn't long before Lucia gets snapped up by John Talbot, a rakishly handsome man-about-town who's vaguely employed in the importing business (alarm bells clang in everyone's head, except for that of the normally bright Lucia). Trigiani is mostly interested in Lucia's relationships with her coworkers and family, only intermittently cutting back to her blossoming romance with John. But she knows how to deliver on basic desires: her story is filled-to-bursting withgorgeous clothes, sumptuous meals, beautiful weather, and the rhapsody of New York City. Where it runs into problems is with its humans: solidly depicted but never quite lifelike. Silly but romantic stuff, written in a state of never-ending swoon. Agent: Suzanne Gluck/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812967791
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/29/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 97,517
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani grew up in Virginia and now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. She is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Trigiani is the author of the bestselling novels Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, and Milk Glass Moon, and has written the screenplay for the movie Big Stone Gap, which she will also direct. She can be reached at www.adrianatrigiani.com.

Biography

As her squadrons of fans already know, Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap, a coal-mining town in southwest Virginia that became the setting for her first three novels. The Big Stone Gap books feature Southern storytelling with a twist: a heroine of Italian descent, like Trigiani, who attended St. Mary's College of Notre Dame, like Trigiani. But the series isn't autobiographical -- the narrator, Ave Maria Mulligan, is a generation older than Trigiani and, as the first book opens, has settled into small-town spinsterhood as the local pharmacist.

The author, by contrast, has lived most of her adult life in New York City. After graduating from college with a theater degree, she moved to the city and began writing and directing plays (her day jobs included cook, nanny, house cleaner and office temp). In 1988, she was tapped to write for the Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, and spent the following decade working in television and film. When she presented her friend and agent Suzanne Gluck with a screenplay about Big Stone Gap, Gluck suggested she turn it into a novel.

The result was an instant bestseller that won praise from fellow writers along with kudos from celebrities (Whoopi Goldberg is a fan). It was followed by Big Cherry Holler and Milk Glass Moon, which chronicle the further adventures of Ave Maria through marriage and motherhood. People magazine called them "Delightfully quirky... chock full of engaging, oddball characters and unexpected plot twists."

Critics sometimes reach for food imagery to describe Trigiani's books, which have been called "mouthwatering as fried chicken and biscuits" (USA Today) and "comforting as a mug of tea on a rainy Sunday" (The New York Times Book Review). Food and cooking play a big role in the lives of Trigiani's heroines and their families: Lucia, Lucia, about a seamstress in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and The Queen of the Big Time, set in an Italian-American community in Pennsylvania, both feature recipes from Trigiani's grandmothers. She and her sisters have even co-written a cookbook called, appropriately enough, Cooking With My Sisters: One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Bari to Big Stone Gap. It's peppered with anecdotes, photos and family history. What it doesn't have: low-carb recipes. "An Italian girl can only go so long without pasta," Trigiani quipped in an interview on GoTriCities.com.

Her heroines are also ardent readers, so it comes as no surprise that book groups love Adriana Trigiani. And she loves them right back. She's chatted with scores of them on the phone, and her Web site includes photos of women gathered together in living rooms and restaurants across the country, waving Italian flags and copies of Lucia, Lucia.

Trigiani, a disciplined writer whose schedule for writing her first novel included stints from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning, is determined not to disappoint her fans. So far, she's produced a new novel each year since the publication of Big Stone Gap.

"I don't take any of it for granted, not for one second, because I know how hard this is to catch with your public," she said in an interview with The Independent. "I don't look at my public as a group; I look at them like individuals, so if a reader writes and says, 'I don't like this,' or, 'This bit stinks,' I take it to heart."

Good To Know

Some fascinating, funny outtakes from our interview with Trigiani:

"I appeared on the game show Kiddie Kollege on WCYB-TV in Bristol, Virginia, when I was in the third grade. I missed every question. It was humiliating."

"I have held the following jobs: office temp, ticket seller in movie theatre, cook in restaurant, nanny, and phone installer at the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In the writing world, I have been a playwright, television writer/producer, documentary writer/director, and now novelist."

"I love rhinestones, faux jewelry. I bought a pair of pearl studded clip on earrings from a blanket on the street when I first moved to New York for a dollar. They turned out to be a pair designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Now, they are costume, but they are still Schiaps! Always shop in the street -- treasures aplenty."

"Dear readers, I like you. I am so grateful that you read and enjoy my books. I never forget that -- or you -- when I am working. I am also indebted to the booksellers who read the advanced reader's editions and write to me and say, "I'm gonna hand-sell this one." That always makes me jump for joy. I love the people at my publishing house. Smart. Funny, and I like it when they're slightly nervous because that means they care. The people I have met since I started writing books have been amazing on every level -- and why not? You're readers. And for someone to take reading seriously means that you are seeking knowledge. Yes, reading is fun, but it is also an indication of a serious-minded person who values imagination and ideas and, dare I say it, art. I never thought in a million years when I was growing up in Big Stone Gap that I would be writing this to you today. Books have always been sacred to me -- important, critical, fundamental -- and a celebration of language and words. And authors! When I was little, I didn't play Old Maid, I played authors. They had cards with the famous authors on them. Now, granted, they didn't look like movie stars, but I loved what they wrote and had to say. I can boil this all down to one thing: I love to tell stories -- and I love to hear them. I didn't think there was a job in the world where I would get to do both, and now thank God, I've found it."

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

From her window Kit Zanetti can see absolutely everything that happens on Commerce Street. The name doesn’t really suit the street; it should be called Winding Trail, or Lavender Lane, or Rue de Gem. Greenwich Village doesn’t get any more enchanting than this at night, with the puddles of blue light around the roots of old trees that grow a few feet apart on either side of the street; or any lovelier by day, when the sun bakes the connecting row houses, none more than four stories high, some festooned in ivy, a few white clapboard with black-licorice trim, and one storefront so old that the brick façade has faded from maroon to pale orange. The brownstone stoops are hemmed with old terra-cotta pots containing whatever flowers grow in the shade, usually pink and white impatiens. The sidewalks are uneven, the concrete squares like slabs of layer cake. The shutters that swing from the windows are painted mottled shades of cream and Mamie pink, a powdery peach tone not seen since the Eisenhower administration (it appears the shutters have not been painted since then, either).

This is the ideal home for a playwright, clusters of buildings filled with stories and people whose quirks play out with small-town regularity. Every morning Kit sits in the window while her coffee brews, and witnesses the same scene. A petite woman with shocking red hair walks a Great Dane as tall as she is, and as they turn the corner, she yanks the leash, and he leaps into the air, setting off the car alarm in the Chevy Nova. On the opposite corner, a bald accountant in a suit the color of a Tootsie Roll emerges from his basement apartment, looks up at the sky, takes a deep breath, and hails a cab. Finally, the superintendent from the apartment building across the street comes out of the foyer, hops on his stripped-down bike (essentially two wheels connected by a coat hanger), throws a broom over his shoulder, and rides off, looking very World War II Italy.

There is a loud knock at the door. Kit is expecting her landlord and super, Tony Sartori, to stop by and unclog her sink for the tenth time this year. The tenants have never seen a professional anybody (plumber, electrician, painter) with actual tools work in the building. Everything in this building, from the wiring to the gas to the pipes, is fixed by Tony with duct tape. The tape thing became so funny that Kit cut out a magazine article about how Miss America contestants create cleavage under their evening gowns by hoisting their breasts with duct tape, and put it in her rent envelope. Mr. Sartori never mentioned receiving the article, but he began addressing Kit as Miss Pennsylvania.

“I’m coming,” Kit calls out sweetly in the high-pitched, grateful tone of a renter who doesn’t want to be any trouble. She opens the door. “Oh, Aunt Lu.” Lu is not actually Kit’s aunt, but everyone in the building calls her “aunt,” so Kit does, too. Sometimes Lu leaves gifts for Kit outside the door—a small bag of expensive coffee beans, a bar of lilac soap, a sample box of tiny perfume bottles—with a note that says, “Enjoy!” in big, cursive handwriting. The stationery, small ecru cards with a gold “L” engraved on them, is uptown tasteful.

Lu smiles warmly. “How are you?” She lives upstairs in the back apartment and is the only other single woman in Kit’s building. She’s in her seventies, but she has the chic look of New York’s older ladies who stay in the moment. Her hair is done, her lipstick applied in the latest shade of fiery fuchsia, and she wears a vintage Hermès scarf wrapped around her neck and anchored by a sparkly brooch. Aunt Lu is trim and small. Her perfume is spicy and youthful, not flowery like a grandmother’s.

“I thought you were Mr. Sartori,” Kit says.

“What happened?” Lu peers into the apartment, expecting to see water gushing from the ceiling or worse.

“The sink. It’s clogged again. And it won’t open up no matter what I do. I plunged. I prayed. I used enough Drano to blow up Brooklyn.”

“If I see Tony, I’ll tell him to get up here and fix it immediately.”

“Thanks.” If anybody has an in with the landlord, it’s Aunt Lu. After all, she is a blood relative.

Aunt Lu pulls on her gloves. “I was wondering if you were busy this afternoon. I’d love to have you up for tea.”

She has never invited Kit up to her place. They both know and live by the unwritten rules of apartment dwelling. It’s best to keep a distance from neighbors in a small building; cordial greetings by the mailbox are acceptable, but beyond that it gets dicey, since there is nothing worse than a fellow tenant who stops by too much, chats too long, and borrows things. Kit says, “Thanks, but I’m writing. Maybe we can do it another time.”

“Sure, whenever you can, you let me know. I’ve been cleaning out my apartment, and I have lots of things I think you might like”—Lu looks around the apartment—“or could use.”

Kit reconsiders. Nothing is more alluring than a free indoor flea market without other customers to beat to the prizes. And Aunt Lu reminds Kit of her own grandmother. She also seems self-sufficient and has an air of discernment, something Kit would like to cultivate. How many women can wear an enormous enamel dragonfly brooch and pull it off? “Maybe I can make it around four.”

“I would love that!” Lu says, smiling. “See you then.”

“How ya doin’, Aunt Lu?” Tony Sartori asks as he climbs the stairs to Kit’s apartment.

“I’m fine, but Kit’s drain has seen better days.” Aunt Lu winks at Kit as Mr. Sartori enters the apartment.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s always something around here,” he grouses.

Lu grabs the hand railing and makes her way down the narrow stairwell. It’s early October and not too chilly outside, maybe fifty degrees, but Lu is already wearing her full-length mink coat, which drags the stairs behind her like the cape of a duchess. No matter the temperature, from September to June, Aunt Lu wears that mink coat.

“Come on in.” Kit need not invite him, since he’s already in the bathroom. “Aunt Lu’s a pretty lady,” she tells him, hoping to score some points.

“You kiddin’ me? In her day, she was a looker. They say she was the most bee-yoo-tee-ful gal in the Village.”

“Really?”

“Yep. You said you had a leak.”

“A clog. In the bathroom sink,” Kit corrects him.

“Again?” he says in a tone that implies it’s Kit’s fault. Tony Sartori is a small man with white hair and black eyebrows that look like thick hedges. He looks enough like Gepetto, the gentle cobbler in Pinocchio, to make Kit feel safe, but his vocal tone is pure New York rasp, which scares her a little.

Kit laughs nervously. “Sorry. You know I spend my nights stuffing the drain with olive pits so you have to spend your days fixing it.”

Tony Sartori looks as though he may yell, but he smiles instead. “Remain calm, Miss Pennsylvania. I’ll fix it.”

Kit grins weakly but knows better. He’ll plunge the sink and then wrap some crappy tape around the hole in the pipe and return in two weeks when the sticky stuff comes undone and she has another flood.

“We might have to get a plumber this time,” he says from under the sink.

“Hallelujah!” Kit claps her hands together joyfully.

Sartori grips the sink and pulls himself to a standing position. Kit’s bathroom is wallpapered floor to ceiling with rejection letters from every regional theater in the nation, from Alaska Rep to the Wyoming Traveling Players. They are all variations of the same message: good characters, good dialogue, but “you don’t know how to tell a story, Ms. Zanetti.” Tony Sartori reads one and shakes his head. “Don’t you ever want to give up? I mean, with letters like these, what’s the point?”

“I’m getting better,” Kit tells him.

“Maybe you are. But evidently there aren’t a lot of people out there in the theater world who think you can write a play.” Sartori shrugs. “Besides, what is the theater anymore? It’s not like it was. It used to be cheap and wholesome, dancing girls and good music. Now it’s too damn expensive. They herd you in like cows, and then the seats are so small, you get a blood clot in your leg before the first song is over. My wife loves that Phantom of the Opera show. I thought it was all right. To me it’s just a guy in a mask scaring a girl with a good figure and then singing about it.”

“The reviews are in!” Kit says cheerfully. She is used to the barbs, criticisms, and comparisons that come with her chosen profession. Playwriting as a career is pathetic. A writer can’t make a living, and in this culture, plays are about as relevant as glassblowing or whittling forks out of wood. Kit will keep these thoughts to herself, since the last thing she needs is an artistic standoff with Tony Sartori.

“That’s just my opinion.” Mr. Sartori spins the roll of duct tape on his index finger and goes to the door. “Can you hold off using the sink for a while?”

“How long? You know I do an intense beauty treatment each night, and it requires running water to make the thick paste that I trowel on to prevent premature wrinkles.”

“That must be quite a sight. Use the kitchen sink for now.”

“Yes, sir.” Kit smiles. “Mr. Sartori?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you ever think anything I say is funny? Even just a little?”

“Not really.”

Tony Sartori closes the door behind him, and Kit hears him chuckle from the other side.

The Pink Teacup on Grove Street has the best coconut cake in the city. Made from scratch, it’s a yellow cake so moist, for a moment it seems like it may not have cooked through. The batter is full of tiny pineapple chips, and the icing is butter cream whipped so light that the coconut curls sink into it. Juanita, the cook, likes Kit because she raved about the cake in an online magazine piece. Whenever Kit passes by, Juanita cuts her a slab for free. Today Kit takes two slices, one for herself and one for Aunt Lu. As she walks back toward home, she makes a mental note to add some dishes to the article she is writing for Time Out, “Best Food in the Village.” The articles don’t pay much, but the perks are fabulous—free food in her favorite restaurants. So far her list includes:

Best Breakfast: the weekender at Pastis, on Ninth Avenue—includes a basket of sticky buns, chocolate pané, cocoa bread, and nut loaf followed by scrambled eggs with crispy home fries made with onions and butter.

Best Lunch: the hamburger at Grange Hall, on the corner of Commerce and Barrow, with a glass of robust red wine.

Best Sandwich: the tuna salad with a delicate paste of avocado and sliced tomato at Elephant and Castle on Greenwich Avenue.

Best Dinner: Stefano’s spaghetti pomodoro at Valdino West on Hudson Street.

Best Comfort Food: garlic mashed potatoes at Nadine’s on Bank Street.

Kit’s neighborhood is often host to small literary tour groups who wander around with their guidebooks, pointing out the brownstones where Bret Harte and e. e. cummings lived, and the bar where Dylan Thomas raised his last glass before passing out in a booth and meeting his maker. Kit imagines creating an Eating Tour of the Village. Literature vs. a good sandwich. She has a hunch her tour would draw larger crowds.

Back home, Kit places the slices of cake in a Tupperware container and settles down to work. It takes all of her willpower not to eat the coconut cake before her four o’clock tea with Aunt Lu. She knows she will spend most of the afternoon circling it like a lonely hawk hovering over a platter of steak tartare in the desert. Of course, this is what writers do when they’re not writing: they walk in circles around food and decide whether or not to eat it, as if taking a bite will somehow make a bit of dialogue work or help create a missing scene (it never does). This is why the Weight Watchers meetings at Fourteenth Street and Ninth Avenue are packed with women writers, including Kit, who has reached her goal weight twice in the last year. Eating and writing are the husband and wife of creativity.

Promptly at four o’clock Kit climbs the stairs to Aunt Lu’s apartment, feeling triumphant about her two gorgeous uneaten slices of coconut cake. She hopes hot tea and something sweet will get them through the visit, since she can’t imagine what she and Aunt Lu will talk about.

Like most New Yorkers who live in walk-ups, Kit has never gone above her own floor. Lu’s fifth-floor landing has charm, and there’s a small skylight over a metal ladder that leads to the roof, resembling a periscope on a submarine. Kit has always wanted to check out the view, but the lease forbids tenants to go on the roof. The more Kit thinks about it, the more she realizes that Tony Sartori is stricter than her parents ever were. But it is worth a little suffering to live on Commerce Street.

“Aunt Lu?” Kit calls out. The door is propped open with a black iron kitten.

“Come in, darling.”

Kit eases the door open slowly. “I brought . . .” She looks around the chintz wonderland in awe. Every corner, nook, cranny, and wall is filled with stuff.

“What, dear?” Lu says from the kitchen.

“Cake,” Kit blurts. “From the Pink Teacup. It’s really good. I wrote about it. It’s fresh daily. I hope you like it.”

“I’ve been there many times. The food is excellent.”

Aunt Lu answers the whistling teakettle in her tiny kitchen while Kit does a full turn and takes in the expanse. The walls are high, and much of the ceiling is covered by a large skylight that slants down, making an eave to a door that leads to the terrace. It has begun to rain, and as the drops hit the glass, they tinkle like music. Aunt Lu’s canopy bed is covered by a chenille bedspread, white with shaggy violets on scalloped trim. The furniture is precious and frilly: a pale blue velvet love seat and two chintz slipper chairs with a pattern of irises. The coffee table holds a collection of silver mint-julep cups filled with tiny silk flowers.

“I have a lot of stuff, don’t I?” Aunt Lu says from the kitchen, chuckling.

“Yes, but it’s all . . .” Kit struggles to describe what she sees. “Interesting. Like you’ve lived—I mean, live—an interesting life.”

“Look around. Enjoy.”

Kit skirts the furniture carefully. Every flat surface is covered with knickknacks—two pink ceramic poodles with a gold chain connecting them, tiny vases of Venetian glass, a jeweled letter opener, years of collected clutter, bad gifts, inherited bric-a-brac, and sale items too cheap to resist. Even the wallpaper says, “Old lady lives here,” with its fat cabbage roses on a crisscross trellis. Kit feels overwhelmed, as though she is standing in the middle of someone’s hope chest, among layers and layers of stuff that has meaning but no purpose.

Kit turns and faces the long wall of the apartment. It is lined with red and white department-store gift boxes, each one with swirly letters that say, “B. Altman’s.” The boxes at the top have been faded by the sun, so their red is more brown than the boxes stacked underneath.

In the corner next to the wall of boxes is a small end table dressed with a lace doily. Arranged atop are several photographs in ornate silver frames. In the center is an eight-by-ten color photograph of a beautiful girl in a strapless gold lamé gown. The color in the photo is intense and saturated, like that of an old movie still. The young woman in the picture is around twenty-five, her heart-shaped face creamy pink, her full lips in a light pink pout. Her almond-shaped eyes are set off by long black eyelashes and perfectly sculpted eyebrows, making her seem Egyptian or Italian. Something exotic. “Who’s the knockout?” Kit asks.

“That’s me,” Aunt Lu tells her. “When I was about your age.”

“Really?” Kit says, then immediately apologizes for her tone. “I didn’t mean that like it sounded. Of course it’s you. That’s your face, for sure.”

“No, no, I’m an old lady now, and that’s over. It took awhile for me to accept that. It’s not easy to let go of your youth, believe me.”

“You would be on magazine covers today with your face. And that body! I write for magazines sometimes, and they look for models who have that.”

“Have what, dear?”

“That quality. That golden kind of beauty, where each feature is perfect and it adds up to something original. Your eyes are a color of blue I’ve never seen before. And your lips, they’re a cupid’s bow. And I don’t mean to sound funny, but your nose is the best I’ve ever seen; it’s straight, and the tip goes up a little. That’s a feat for us Italian girls. Sometimes we end up with real honkers.”

Aunt Lu laughs. “Well, thank you.”

“No, no, it’s true.”

Lu takes the photograph from Kit and looks at it. “What a night that was. New Year’s Eve at the Waldorf. The McGuire Sisters rang in 1951 with me, my boss, Delmarr, and my mother and father at a front table at the foot of the stage. That was one of the best nights of my life.”

“You’re breathtaking,” Kit says.

“I was just lucky,” Lu says, then adds, “You’re a pretty girl, too.”

“Thanks. But my grandmother always says it doesn’t matter what a woman does to look young, when we hit seventy, we all wind up looking like Mrs. Santa Claus.”

Aunt Lu laughs. “It sounds like I’d get along fine with your grandmother. Come sit down.” She places a silver tray with the cake, the teacups, a small pot of tea, sugar, and creamer on a side table.

Kit leans back in the chair, which is so soft, the cushions must be filled with down. She pours cream in her tea while she tries to think of what to say next. “Is your real name Lucy?”

“No. Lucia.” Aunt Lu says her name softly, with a perfect Italian accent.

“Loo-chee-uh,” Kit repeats. “Like the opera?”

Aunt Lu smiles, and Kit notices a deep dimple in her right cheek. “Papa called me Lucia di Lammermoor.”

“What did he do?”

“He owned the Groceria.”

“On Sixth Avenue?” Kit leans forward in amazement. The Groceria is revered as an authentic Italian market and is therefore one of the biggest tourist traps in the city. It features all the best imported staples, including Tuscan olive oil, fresh pastas, and hanging salamis from every region. It sells cheeses from around the globe, and mozzarella cheese made fresh daily that floats in tubs of clear water like golf balls. The store is known for its elaborate displays of breads, meats, and fish.

“Do you still own it?”

Aunt Lu frowns. “No, dear. It was sold about twenty years ago. The family business is now centered around managing apartment buildings.”

“Tony Sartori owns other buildings?” Kit can’t believe that the king of duct tape would have other properties.

“He and his brothers. Tony is a real piece of work. So impatient. That temper. The boys today are nothing like my father. Sometimes they remind me of my brothers, but my brothers had respect for the family. Today I’m lucky if they remember I live up here. I know old people aren’t terribly interesting to young people, but I am, after all, their aunt, and their only connection to their father’s people.”

Kit nods, feeling a little guilty. She hadn’t been too excited about spending any time up here, either.

Aunt Lu continues, “Tony is the eldest son of my eldest brother, Roberto. Of course, my brother has been dead for many years.”

“So, how many of you were there growing up?”

“I had four older brothers. I was the baby.”

“What happened to them?”

“They’re all gone. I’m the last of the original Sartoris. I miss them, too. Roberto, Angelo, Orlando, and Exodus.”

“Great names. Exodus. Were you all named after opera characters?”

“Just two of us.” Aunt Lu smiles. “Do you like the opera?”

“My grandmother does, and she passed it along to me. I’ve offered to burn CDs of her record albums, and she won’t let me. She likes to stack them on her record player and let them drop and play through, scratches and all. Gram thinks the scratches make the music better.”

Aunt Lu refills Kit’s teacup. “You know, Kit, when you’re old, you like to hold on to all the little things that meant something to you. It feels comfortable and right. Let her have her old ways. They’re her ways, you understand?”

“Yes, I do. Is that why you live in your nephew’s building? Or is the Sartori family holding out to make a big sale on the building, and then you’ll cash out and move uptown with a view of Central Park?”

“Sure, sure. I’m holding out for my view of the park.” Aunt Lu smiles.

“I don’t blame you. You should get something out of living here. The place isn’t exactly maintained, but I don’t like to complain. I’m afraid Mr. Sartori would throw me out.”

“I know the feeling,” Aunt Lu says quietly.

“Of course, my place is in worse shape than yours. My bathroom wall is ready to cave in.”

“How should they know how to take care of these properties when everything they have was handed to them? I worked my whole life, so I know the value of things.”

“When did you stop working?”

“I retired in 1989 when B. Altman’s closed. Of all the employees, I had been there the longest, since 1945. They even gave me an award.” Lucia picks up an engraved crystal paperweight off the coffee table and hands it to Kit.

“This is kind of like a perfect-attendance certificate in high school.”

“That’s exactly right.”

Kit returns the award to its place on the table. “You were there so long. You must have liked your job.”

“Oh, I loved it.” As Aunt Lu remembers, her face is transformed. Beneath the distinguished older woman she is now, Kit can see the young woman with moxie and beauty. Kit is ashamed that she tried to come up with an excuse to avoid this cup of tea. After all, Lucia Sartori is no Greenwich Village kook like the guy on Fourteenth Street who dresses up like Shakespeare and walks through Washington Square Park broadcasting sonnets. Kit looks over into the alcove where Lucia’s mink coat hangs on a dress mannequin. The sleek black fur looks almost new in what little light is coming through the windows. The rain has stopped and left behind a late-afternoon sky the color of a gray pearl.

“Aunt Lu? May I call you Lucia?”

“Absolutely.”

“I’ve always wondered, since you wear it a lot, what’s the deal with the mink coat?”

Lucia looks off into the alcove. “The mink coat is the story of my life.”

“Well, Lucia, if it’s not too much trouble, can you tell me the story?” Kit picks up her cup of tea and settles back in her chair as Lucia begins.

Read More Show Less

Foreword

1. Why do you think the novel begins in the present before telling Lucia’s story in flashback? Is this an effective way to relate Lucia’s story? How do you think your reading or interpretation of the novel is affected as a result of partially knowing the story’s ending?

2. Lucia, Lucia is set in 1950s Greenwich Village. Discuss how Trigiani portrays the neighborhood, especially in contrast to its usual bohemian image.

3. On page 45, Lucia’s father tells her, “You deserve your own life.” Do you think Lucia eventually gets her own life, or is what happens to her the result of circumstances beyond her control? Overall, how much is Lucia free of her traditions? How much is she a captive to them?

4. What role do the men in Lucia’s family—her father and brothers— play in shaping her life and her destiny?

5. What’s behind Lucia’s decision to stay at home and care for her mother despite the opportunity to advance her career? Also, why does she stay on at B. Altman’s despite having to change positions and the changes in the store? Is it only because she has to care for her mother, or are there other factors?

6. Why do you think Lucia keeps all of her wedding presents in her apartment and continues to wear her mink coat? What doyou think Lucia’s life was like in the years after being jilted by John Talbot until the time she tells her story to Kit?

7. Religion plays a large role in shaping the Sartoris’ behavior and customs, as well as the behavior of those closest to them. What is Lucia’s view of religion and faith, especially during her and her family’svarious trials?

8. Dante and John Talbot love Lucia in different ways. Discuss the ways they both love her and the different ways she loves them back. Does Lucia have a true love? Given her experiences, what do you think is Lucia’s view of love?

9. How do you think Lucia’s life would have turned out if she had married John Talbot? If she had married Dante? Do you think Lucia would have been happier if she’d moved to Hollywood to work with Delmarr?

10. On page 249, Lucia tells Kit that people don’t change very much in their lives. Do you think Lucia changes? If so, how?

11. While in Lucia’s apartment (page 10) Kit feels as if she’s in a room filled with things with meaning but no purpose. Do you think this in any way symbolizes Lucia’s life, or is this only Kit’s superficial impression of Lucia?

12. Why does Lucia choose to bestow her things on Kit? Is Kit like Lucia? Does Lucia see some of herself in Kit, or vice versa?

13. Lucia believes in beauty, style, and elegance. Do these qualities betray her or do they give her life meaning?

14. Do you think there is any truth in John Talbot’s saying to Lucia that she is a woman who can survive being left at the altar (page 255), or is he just making excuses for himself?

15. In her last meeting with John Talbot in the state prison, Lucia seems unusually poised and equanimous throughout their con- versation. Are you surprised either by her composure or by her attitude toward him?

16. What do you think are Lucia’s dreams? On page 256, Lucia says that she has no regrets over the events in her life. Do you believe her? Do you think Lucia has led a happy life?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think the novel begins in the present before telling Lucia’s story in flashback? Is this an effective way to relate Lucia’s story? How do you think your reading or interpretation of the novel is affected as a result of partially knowing the story’s ending?

2. Lucia, Lucia is set in 1950s Greenwich Village. Discuss how Trigiani portrays the neighborhood, especially in contrast to its usual bohemian image.

3. On page 45, Lucia’s father tells her, “You deserve your own life.” Do you think Lucia eventually gets her own life, or is what happens to her the result of circumstances beyond her control? Overall, how much is Lucia free of her traditions? How much is she a captive to them?

4. What role do the men in Lucia’s family—her father and brothers— play in shaping her life and her destiny?

5. What’s behind Lucia’s decision to stay at home and care for her mother despite the opportunity to advance her career? Also, why does she stay on at B. Altman’s despite having to change positions and the changes in the store? Is it only because she has to care for her mother, or are there other factors?

6. Why do you think Lucia keeps all of her wedding presents in her apartment and continues to wear her mink coat? What doyou think Lucia’s life was like in the years after being jilted by John Talbot until the time she tells her story to Kit?

7. Religion plays a large role in shaping the Sartoris’ behavior and customs, as well as the behavior of those closest to them. What is Lucia’s view of religion and faith, especially during her and her family’s various trials?

8. Dante and John Talbot love Lucia in different ways. Discuss the ways they both love her and the different ways she loves them back. Does Lucia have a true love? Given her experiences, what do you think is Lucia’s view of love?

9. How do you think Lucia’s life would have turned out if she had married John Talbot? If she had married Dante? Do you think Lucia would have been happier if she’d moved to Hollywood to work with Delmarr?

10. On page 249, Lucia tells Kit that people don’t change very much in their lives. Do you think Lucia changes? If so, how?

11. While in Lucia’s apartment (page 10) Kit feels as if she’s in a room filled with things with meaning but no purpose. Do you think this in any way symbolizes Lucia’s life, or is this only Kit’s superficial impression of Lucia?

12. Why does Lucia choose to bestow her things on Kit? Is Kit like Lucia? Does Lucia see some of herself in Kit, or vice versa?

13. Lucia believes in beauty, style, and elegance. Do these qualities betray her or do they give her life meaning?

14. Do you think there is any truth in John Talbot’s saying to Lucia that she is a woman who can survive being left at the altar (page 255), or is he just making excuses for himself?

15. In her last meeting with John Talbot in the state prison, Lucia seems unusually poised and equanimous throughout their con- versation. Are you surprised either by her composure or by her attitude toward him?

16. What do you think are Lucia’s dreams? On page 256, Lucia says that she has no regrets over the events in her life. Do you believe her? Do you think Lucia has led a happy life?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 101 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(60)

4 Star

(25)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Touching and easily relatable

    Trigiani is a beautiful storyteller. Her books get you hooked on "family".
    It's funny, romantic, and sad in ways. One minute I was laughing, the next, huge tears were making their way down my cheeks and I actually sobbed more than once. This bittersweet story captivated me from the beginning as Aunt Lu, the beloved and only daughter of the huge, boisterous Italian Sartori family, tells the story of her life to Kit.
    The bulk of the novel is in flashback to her younger years as a career woman in the 1950s. Gorgeous Lucia Sartori of Greenwich Village is an incredibly headstrong and independent woman. All the characters were endearing and equally complicated. She had the glamorous life that included her family, friends, work and male pursuers. Plans for the upcoming wedding are running smoothly until Lucia learns that Dante's controlling and overbearing mother expects Lucia to quit her job immediately after the wedding to stay home, clean house and take care of ALL of the children that she will unquestionably bear. Shocked and angry that she would have to choose between being a wife and having a career, Lucia breaks off the engagement, NO WEDDING, without losing a step. She has plans. She's going to do something with her life, and it won't be a slave to a kitchen, house, or man. With her eye for color and design, she'll make exquisite clothes for the cream of society instead.
    This is a sweet, tender story, not over-done in the sentimentality department, or overly dramatic, but on realistic terms.
    Anyone with a heart will enjoy this. This is touching and easily relatable to your own life. I loved it! I recommended it to my book club, along with EXPLOSION IN PARIS and PERFECT.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    ONE OF THE BEST!!

    This is one of the best books I've read in a very long time and I've read a lot. I laughed, I cried and I absolutely loved the story, the characters and New York in the 1950's.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Loved this book

    This was the first time I've read this author and it won't be the last. I enjoyed the characters and how the story unfolded in this book. It kept my interest and when I was done, it left me wanting to read more-that's why the 5 stars.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I love this book!

    I have read all of Adrianna Trigiani's books and this one has always been my favorite. I just finished "Very Valentine" and I must say it is in a tie for my favorite Trigiani book. In Lucia, Lucia I could always picture every detail of her life and where she lived. This is a book that I recommend to anyone who is wanting a good read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    absolutely wonderful

    This is such a good book. Light and delightful and full of life. I ran right out and bought her new book Queen of the Big Time. Also excellent. I just love that title too. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story and enjoys strong family ties,and no violence, which is refreshing. It's like an old movie you'd watch on a Sunday afternoon. Warm and fuzzy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2008

    One of my favorites!

    This is my first book written by this author and I am planning to read the others. My Sunday School teacher loaned me this book and highly recommended it. I love to read and enjoyed it tremendously. It certainly had me in tears but, it is a true love story and story of the bond within a family and lifetime friends. Thanks for an enjoyable read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2008

    A good old-fashioned love story . . .

    This is a wonderful book to curl up with if you just want to escape into an enchanting world full of drama and romance. Lucia is also made of the substance that we all want -- taking care of ourselves so that someone else can't take us out of our game. Very worth the read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2007

    Life and Love

    Lucia, Lucia is a book full of fun and warmth but has it's heartbreaks. A lovely read with great story telling, the main character has a life changing decision to make about love and family. To anyone who enjoys a down to earth read about life and love, this is a sure hit.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2007

    LOVE IT!

    I loved this book. i had to read it for english class and i finished it even before the class started it! well i was sick and i had nothing to do. So read it NOW

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2005

    First time reader of Adriana Trigiani and I am hooked

    This was the first Adriana Trigiani book I read and then I was hooked on her. I loaned it to one of our cousins and she became impressed with her writing as well. Parts of the book make you think you are in Italy. I would read this book again in a heartbeat. You are hooked the minute you start reading her books. Adriani is an excellent writer, and to think I found out about her on the back of a Sons Of Italy Magazine.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2005

    My favorite book...ever!!

    This book quickly made it's way to the top of my list. Everything about this book was great: the characters, the history, the setting, the plot. The book made me laugh and cry. I don't know anyone who wouldn't fall in love with this book. I have already recommended this book to anyone who will listen!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2005

    Engaging Chick Lit

    This page turner transports the reader back to the glamour and elegance of 1950's NYC as we follow the story of headstrong Italian-American Lucia Sartori caught between the expectations of her traditional family and her own career dreams. A vivid, hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking story of a young woman's life choices that reads true.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    I Love Adriana Trigiani's Books!

    I did not think I would like Lucia, Lucia as much as I loved the Big Stone Gap Series, but I loved it even more. What a heartfelt story that pulls you in with Adriana's detailed description of life in New York in the 1950's. I also love the way Adriana describes the small towns and cities of Italy. It makes me want to tour Italy asap. I really loved the character of Lucia. This story would make a great movie with maybe Marisa Tomei as Lucia.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2005

    'Lucia Lucia' took me back to my Italian-American childhood!

    I knew I was going to like the book after reading the first page. Like the author, I come from a 'proud to be Italian-American family.' Aside from being pleasant to read because of the heritage, the book had many twists and turns...kept me guessing. I'm anxiously awaiting a chance to buy 'Queen of the Big Time.' I haven't been able to find it yet at my local Barnes & Noble store, but keep looking every week. Adriana Trigiani is exceptional!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    Another superb novel by acclaimed author Trigiani

    In contrast to rural Virginia, this novel is set in glittering post-war New York. The story fills you with a warm-fuzzy feeling...like a cup of hot chocalate on a chilly winter eve. Savored every last page.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2004

    Love, Italian Family Style

    The reason I picked up this book was because of the name Lucia. It was my granmothers name and it caught my eye. I am so glad I did. A great fun read. It brought back fond memories of growing up with Italian grandparents, and the close knit family unit. Lucia Sartori was a career minded woman, way ahead of her times and culture. I laughed at references to certain phrases like getting 'agita' over something, ringing out the 'mapeen', things that really put me in touch with my New Jersey Italian/American upbringing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2003

    A Wonderful Novel

    I love this novel! This novel stayed with me long after I turned the last page. Lucia, Lucia is a story about real life. The characters and situations presented in this novel are quite believable. I finished this book in less than two days. It is just that engrossing. The novel gave me insight into Italian American life. It also depicted with great detail an era of time with which I have always been fascinated. There are not enough words or space for me to convey how closely I will hold this novel to my heart. This novel just spoke to me. After I finished this novel I sat for about a half an hour thinking over the events that happened in the book and feeling like I had gotten to know a real person. I was sad to see her go! When you feel like a character is real and you become emotionally involved with that character,an author has done a superb job. My hat's off to Adriana Trigiani--you've done it again!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    I WOULD GIVE IT EVEN MORE STARS!!!

    I loved this book! I cannnot remember when I last read a book that made me cry at the end, which I did for two reasons. First because of the events within and secondly because I just did not want the book itself to end! Having grown up Italian, I could really relate, although that is not a must in order to truly enjoy this book. Buy it, borrow it from a friend or check it out from your local library - you will not be disappointed! I promise!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2003

    Lucia What a Woman!

    What an enjoyable book about a girl trying to break tradition in a tight knit family. Not only was it difficult for women to have a career in the 50's, but one had to please their family's traditions and roles. I found myself not wanting to put this book down!I just wish Lucia could have had it all - but in the long run she seemed happy!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2003

    I Love Lucia

    I loved Adriana Trigiani¿s Big Stone Gap trilogy but had to wonder if I would like her writing as much if the setting weren¿t my own home town. I now have my answer. YES! Maybe more. I really enjoyed the trip to Greenwich Village in the 50¿s and meeting the Sartori family. This mountain girl really liked being in New York City for a while. I loved all the glamour and I especially loved being with Lucia and her family. This is a wonderful story you shouldn¿t miss. You¿ll feel the love for each other in this family. You¿ll share sadness and joy with them. You¿ll even feel nourished with all the good Italian food. You'll be so comfortable, you¿ll want to stay. Adriana trigiani always makes us feel right at home.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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