Lucia, Lucia (Trigiani)

Lucia, Lucia
Adriana Trigiani, 2003
Random House
304 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780812967791

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Big Stone Gap, Virginia, USA
Education—B.A., St. Mary’s College, Indiana, USA
Currently—lives in New York, New York

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" (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

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.

From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:

• 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.

When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is what she said:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. When I was a girl growing up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, I was in the middle of a large Italian family, but I related to the lonely orphan girl Jane, who with calm and focus, put one foot in front of the other to make a life for herself after the death of her parents and her terrible tenure with her mean relatives. She survived the horrors of the orphanage Lowood, losing her best friend to consumption, became a teacher and then a nanny. The love story with the complicated Rochester was interesting to me, but what moved me the most was Jane's character, in particular her sterling moral code. Here was a girl who had no reason to do the right thing, she was born poor and had no connections and yet, somehow she was instinctively good and decent. It's a story of personal triumph and the beauty of human strength. I also find the book a total page turner- and it's one of those stories that you become engrossed in, unable to put it down. Imagine the beauty of the line: "I loved and was loved." It doesn't get any better than that! (Bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
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

[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

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.
Publishers Weekly

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. —Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Library Journal

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.

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. —Joanne Wilkinson

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 with gorgeous 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.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
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 of 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 do you 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 conversation. 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?
(Questions issued by publishers.)

top of page (summary)


Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2018