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In my little reading corner 'chick lit' always has its place. Sometimes I need a pick me up, or I know I'll have limited reading time. In those cases, I need a novel that's a quick read and not too thought provoking. But most frequently, I treat myself to this genre in between 'heavier' reads.
A good piece of chick lit can serve the same purpose as a sorbet served between courses in a fine restaurant. It can cleanse the mind the way the sorbet cleanses the palate. The very best chick lit can also stand alone as dessert, and that's where I would place Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that it's part of a trilogy, and the novel ends with unresolved story lines. A fifth star will have to be earned by books 2 and 3. (The second book, Brava, Valentine, was release last Tuesday and is on its way to me now.)
The main character is Valentine Roncalli, a 33 year old, single, Italian-American woman who abandons her career as a high school teacher to become an apprentice to her octogenarian Grandmother. Together they create handmade bridal shoes in their workshop/home in Greenwich Village. Along the way, Val has a proposal of marriage from her long standing boy friend, Brett. Here's her reaction:
"...I felt the great relief that comes with being alone. I needed to seek my own counsel, to think things through. So I made a dish of spaghetti with fresh tomatoes from this garden, olive oil from Arezzo, and sweet white garlic. I made a salad of artichokes and black olives. I opened a bottle of wine...Then I sat down to eat a glorious meal, slowly savoring every bite and sip.
I realized that my answer to his proposal, upon his return, would not be the great moment; the great moment had already happened. He had asked."
Valentine is a woman who enjoys good food and she's also a thinker.
I liked this book for many reasons. I've always loved New York city. I learned to love Long Island, (although it took a while), and I love Forest Hills where Val's parents live. (We actually have Italian family there.) We always go to Ferrara's in Little Italy for pastry, and we've been to a wedding at Leonard's of Great Neck. All of these places are exactly as Trigiani describes them. She writes with warmth, humor and great affection for her characters. You really can't ask for much more.
I love this Italian family and found it refreshing, and much more realistic, that they were portrayed as just a loud, large Italian family and not cast members of the Sopranos. The family members as written are people I've met. Gran is a very hip 80 year old, Valentine is the quintessential 30 something New Yorker, and Val's mom is the chic middle aged Italian matron that I've encountered several times over.
I also liked the fact that there were no shortage of food scenes in this book. If I illustrated them all, I'd still be in the kitchen! I even finally used the pasta machine and ravioli press that my husband bought me last year! Thank you Adriana.