Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: Tony's Wife

Summary: Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore before World War II. Chi Chi is a talented and ambitious singer-songwriter working in a local blouse factory looking for her big break, while Saverio, a singer already on the rise, is fronting a touring band and has the good looks and smooth vocals that make success seem assured. It isn’t long before Saverio becomes Tony Arma and he and Chi Chi form a duo; together they navigate the glamorous worlds of nightclubs, radio, and television. Soon they’re married and all goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put ambition aside to build a family and which will pursue a career? What compromises will they make to achieve their dreams? And on the road to fame and fortune, how will they cope with the impact these compromises have on their marriage, family, and themselves?

From the Jersey shore to Hollywood, New York City to Las Vegas, the hills of northern Italy and the exuberant hayride of the big band circuit in between: Tony’s Wife tells the story of the twentieth century in song, as Tony & Chi Chi make studio recordings and promote them with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As they juggle the demands of their public lives, secrets are revealed, promises are broken, and loyalty is tested as the Armas attempt to keep the music playing and their family together.

Tony’s Wife is a richly layered novel that explores how a traditional Italian-American family grapples with the seismic shifts they face in a rapidly changing world. Replete with a pageant of vivid, complex characters, this deeply human saga of love and sacrifice showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a captivating storyteller and reveals her understanding that there are many different kinds of families: that over time love can evolve in ways that nobody can predict, especially when the hearts involved are open to forgiveness, the sweet reprise of redemption. -- Harper

If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, then you know that I absolutely adore Adriana Trigiani -- and by adore, I mean I love her as both an author and a person! It's hard to believe that she is able to write such great novels at the pace she does, but she's done it again with her latest book, TONY'S WIFE. This epic story stars Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada, two Italian-American entertainers who fall in love; and it explores their complicated relationship through the decades. Did I mention that it's set against the backdrop of the big band era, World War II,  and the women's movement? I told you it was... EPIC!

Chi Chi and Saverio meet on the Jersey shore in the 1930s. Saverio is an up-and-coming performer in a touring band, while Chi Chi has aspirations of being a singer-songwriter while spending her days working in a shirt factory. The two have instant chemistry as Chi Chi gives Saverio a manicure, and it's clear that the two will have some sort of future together.

It's no spoiler that Chi Chi and Saverio find themselves together again and eventually fall in love. But before that, they both establish their successful entertainment careers and lead interesting lives. Once they marry, they discover the challenges of their careers; and they are forced to face some difficult decisions. Through it all, Chi Chi discovers that her loyalty and sacrifice are necessary to keep her family together.

I loved TONY'S WIFE! I loved the characters, the setting, the love story, and so much more. Adriana continually amazes me with her ability to create deeply real and memorable characters. What especially impressed me about this novel was how it explored the culture of Italian-American families (and really just families in general), while also delving into how much change occurred in society over the course of these characters' lives. TONY'S WIFE truly is a beautiful tribute to families and the especially the importance of women.

Chi Chi is one of my favorite characters in any Adriana Trigiani novel. It was such a treat to see how she evolved throughout the novel,and I truly admired so much about her. I loved her earnestness when she was young and starting her career, but even more, I loved the women she became. Her strength and passion for family is something I aspire to; and it was touching to see how she struggled with her, often times, conflicting desires.

I also thought Saverio/Tony was a special character. He was deeply flawed but I still found myself liking him... even when he was a real dog. I think his relationship with Chi Chi was portrayed so perfectly in all its complexities, and I truly appreciated how his early interactions with his father had long-lasting repercussions.

Adriana created such an interesting backdrop to this story. She did a terrific job of bringing not only the various time periods to life, but also the different settings. This novel spanned from the Jersey shore, to Italy, to Hollywood, to Los Angeles, to Vegas; and each location was described in a larger-than-life way. I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but Adriana sure did her research for this novel!

I think TONY'S WIFE would make an excellent book club selection. There is a great reading guide with twenty questions... so that means that there is a ton to discuss, right? Most of the book's themes are universal and women will definitely relate. Some topics of discussion include love, loss, guilt, grief, parent/child relationships, sacrifice, motherhood, and choices.

I am so excited about TONY'S WIFE and I highly recommend it. The story is an entertaining one and sure to be a hit among readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Thanks to the publisher and author for providing a review copy of this novel.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I agree this is another great one from Trigiani!