Big Stone Gap

Big Cherry Holler

Milk Glass Moon

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani
(Random House, $24.95, G) ISBN 1-4000-6005-2
† In her latest novel, Adriana Trigiani leaves behind the hills of rural Virginia where her Big Stone Gap trilogy was set for the bustling streets of Big Apple. Lucia, Lucia is a charming and occasionally wistful character study of Lucia Sartori, the most beautiful girl in Greenwich Village some 50 years ago. While the novelís plot is predictable, the setting and characters make it sparkle. No matter where her novels take place, Trigiani has proven that she is a skilled storyteller. †

Life is full of possibilities for 25 year old Lucia Sartori in 1950, and she intends to enjoy it to its fullest. She may be the youngest child of Italian immigrants with traditional values, but she has loftier goals than cooking and cleaning. She is proud of her job as a seamstress at B. Altman & Company department store and feels a rush of excitement each day she commutes to Fifth Avenue from the Greenwich Village home she shares with her parents and four older brothers. Within the first few chapters, she has broken up with her long-time fiancť, Dante, after realizing that her affection for him canít survive the homemaker role that his mother insists she adopt. Soon after, she meets John Talbot, a wealthy businessman who sets her pulse racing as Dante never did. But is Talbotís interest in Lucia sincere? Is her fatherís warning that he is not to be trusted just the product of his natural overprotectiveness, or is it an ominous foreshadowing of heartbreak? †

The novel is narrated in the present time by elderly spinster ďAunt LuĒ to a young woman who lives in her building, so we know from the start that Lucia and Johnís relationship did not have a happily-ever-after. Yet the story is anything but bleak. Itís full of the exhilaration felt by the young Lucia as she works hard, surrounded by a colorful boss and friendly-coworkers, always knowing that her loving family awaits her at home when the workday ends. Trigiani peppers the story with the fashions and music of the 50s and other period details, such as Luciaís sense of satisfaction when her weekly salary is raised from $46.75 to $48.50. †

New York may feel like paradise to Lucia, but there are signs all around her that times are rapidly changing in the economic boom of post-WWII America. Some of the changes are positive. For example, the strict social barriers are dissolving, so Luciaís presence at a Plaza cotillion is no longer cause for scandal. But some of the changes are less auspicious; the emphasis on quantity over quality leads to a demand for ready-to-wear clothes, heralding the demise of B. Altmanís custom dress department. The Sartori family, too, has to evolve. Luciaís parents are both immigrants but they learn to accept Luciaís modern choices even if they donít agree with them. Trigiani does a masterful job of portraying all of these changes through Luciaís eyes, making the novel a fascinating glimpse of a pivotal slice of Americaís recent past. †

The novelís secondary characters, including Luciaís parents, brothers, co-workers, and the enigmatic John Talbot are all vibrantly drawn, but itís Lucia who easily earns top billing. A career girl who is ahead of her time, she takes pride in her ability to support herself and refuses to consider a man who would make her quit her beloved job. Itís tempting to question how such a bright, forward-thinking woman could fail to see the truth about Talbot, but because he represents all that she hopes to achieve, her blindness is somewhat understandable. †

The novel falters briefly during a family vacation in Italy Ė I wanted to tell Trigiani to get Lucia back to New York where she belonged. But overall the pacing is sprightly, the story shines and the reader roots for Lucia to triumph. Full of Audrey Hepburn-like glitter, warm-hearted characters and an optimistic view of humanity, Lucia Lucia is a great escape and an antidote to modern-day cynicism. †

--Susan Scribner

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