Very Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani is the coming of middle-age tale of Valentine Roncalli. Valentine is a late bloomer. Although she graduated from college with half-hearted aspirations of teaching it wasn’t until she was almost thirty that she found her passion. Now 34 and living with her grandmother, Valentine has left teaching behind to become an apprentice shoe maker, studying the art and working in the family’s Angelini Shoe Company making custom order shoes for brides.
The Roncalli and Angelini families are quintessential Italian Americans living in New York. Food and family rule center stage; years are measured by weddings and funerals. One of four children Valentine is “the funny one” and the only child not married. She is divided between her art and between fitting into the mold that is expected of her by others. The story follows Valentine over the course of a year and a half through budding romance, family feuds, economic crisis and the perfection of her craft at the hands of a master in Italy.
Very Valentine is a lovely novel that at times reads like a food memoir, a comedy of errors, a tutorial on craftmanship and a travel guide of Italy. It will make you laugh and cry and most of all leave you filled with a warmth that comes from finding your place in the world, however vicariously, through Valentine’s own journey.