The Book "Very Valentine"
I volunteer as a facilitator for a Fiction Focus group sponsored by the City of Richmond, VA and the Richmond Public Library. The first piece of fiction we discussed was Very Valentine, a novel by Adriana Trigiani. If you are looking for an excellent New York Times bestseller to read, look no further.
Disclaimer: Don't worry. I will not give away the ending of the book if you plan to read it.
If you have not read the book, you should! It has a lot to offer because of its universality. Everyone can identify with something in the book because Trigiani focuses on some issues that we all have faced in the past or might face in the future. However, she writes from her own perspectives that show up through her characters who all connect in some way.
The title of the book gives no clue as to what the book is about. One would think it is about Valentine's Day, but that's not the case at all. It is about a young thirty-three old woman named Valentine who lives with her eighty year old grandmother. She chose that lifestyle after breaking up with her boy friend and giving up a teaching position. She becames an apprentice in her grandmother's custom made shoe business.
Valentine is the main character in the book, and we see the other characters through her eyes. In fact, the book is written in the first person where Trigiani makes excellent use of the pronouns "I" and "me."
I like to hear the title of a movie within the movie and read the title within a book. Very Valentine did not disappoint me in that respect for the title "Very Valentine" is seen in the book; however it doesn't come until the very end. Therefore, if you are curious about the title as I was, then you must read the entire book to find out what "Very Valentine" means.
When you read the book, you will readily see that Trigiani is very descriptive. Do not be surprised if you find yourself immersed in particular scenes because of her vivid descriptions. I found it interesting that she took about six pages to describe how she watered a tomato plant. At the time of the reading I must admit I didn't see the sense of that much detail, but as any avid reader knows, the pieces did eventually fall into place. And the watering of the tomato plant on the rooftop did have much to do with what happens later within the book. Therefore, that scene was quite necessary. A void would have existed had it not been in Very Valentine.
Here are some "chunks of life" that captured my attention. Perhaps the same issues or other issues will do the same for you.
Very Valentine opens with a wedding and the readers become part of that special occasion without even dressing up. We listen to Valentine's dialogue with her family and hear her personal thoughts. We can listen in on the conversations at the table and hear her talk to her brother as they dance since she has no date at the wedding.
There is a birth of a child in the book, and there are two birthdays. Valentine turns 34 and her grandmother turns 80. We are invited to the grandmother's birthday party. Again, we don't have to dress up, but surely the characters in the book dress up. That appears to be one of their traditions as the cover of the book depicts.
Within Very Valentine, there is a Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas dinner, a birthday dinner, and many other dinners. In fact, Valentine's recent boyfriend, Roman is the owner a well-know restaurantsso meals are prevalent throughout the book. In fact, there are several of the recipes in the back of the book for people to try on their own.
The family is close knit. And Triagini engages every member of the family in some way to bring the pieces together. As in most families, there are times when family members have heated debates. There is one main feud in the book. That involves Valentine's only brother Alfred who tries to get their grandmother to sell the failing family shoe business. Valentine, on the other hand, insists she could turn the business around. However, Alfred doesn't bulge on his decision and neither does Valentine.
No matter what the discussion is around the table, it seems to always end up with Alfred and Valentine bickering about the shoe business.
If you have not taken a trip recently, travel along with Valentine as she travels in a car, boat, airplane and taxi. Even though the book is not about travel, we surely do see a lot of places through the eyes of Valentine.
Love and Romance
A failed relationship is an issue that Valentine has to deal with. She lets us know how she deals with it by allowing us to hear her conversations and to listen to her intimate thoughts. While there is no chance of Valentine getting back with her former boyfriend, she allows us to go out on dates with her new boyfriend. Then when she meets travels to Italy to look for leather to make shoes, she meets someone who is interested in her. However, she feels a loyatly to Roman who is busy in his restaurant back home. In fact, he is too busy to join her in Capri on vacation as he had promised.
One of the most surprising things in the book is not with Valentine's love and romance, but by another member of the family. (I will keep you in suspense about this part because it might be a spoiler).
Business and Careers
The focus of Very Valentine is about Valentine giving up her teaching career to work as an apprentice in her grandmother's sinking shoe business. When Valentine meets Roman, she is impressed with him having his own restuarant; however, that becomes a problem for them when he spends more time in the restuarant than with her. When she goes to Italy to find leather for new shoes, she meets and spend time with a tanner who is good at his trade. Valentine's ephiphany came when she refuses to enjoy herself in Capri without Roman and goes to see a master cobbler. There she sorts out her feelings about her own career and her feelings about love and about life.
She returns home a changed person.
We can't help but see traditions of a family in Very Valentine. We can't but see traditions of a culture in Very Valentine. The traditions include dressing up, looking in mirrors, shopping, celebrating with lots of food, respecting the family unit, having loud and long conversations, and of course love and romance.
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