Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet as teenagers when Saverio’s band plays at a local venue in Chi Chi’s neighborhood. Chi Chi is whip smart and a little sassy. Saverio is a playboy, and on his way to becoming a star. Even though they are drawn to each other, they never try to be more than friends. At least not at first. Chi Chi’s one dream is to be a singer, and she won’t jeopardize that by becoming yet another one of Saverio’s girls. Over the years, the two begin singing and performing together. Saverio changes his name to Tony, and the “Tony and Chi Chi act” really begins to gain traction—on stage…and off. The only question is, will Chi Chi risk all she’s gained professionally by letting herself fall in love with ever beguiling Tony Arma.
If you like Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale or The Great Alone, you will love this book. It’s a sweeping saga of historical fiction, told over a span of 70 years. The book follows Chi Chi and Tony through their whole lives together—through relationships, performances, deaths in the family, war deployments, births of children, hit records, affairs, and eventually their own deaths.
I felt torn about this book after finishing it. It’s not a bad story; it kept me interested and entertained. And Chi Chi is a great character—a level-headed but feisty workhorse who can write clever songs and manage a chaotic family life at the same time. In fact, I wish the title better reflected her role in the story. She doesn’t even become Tony’s wife until the book is 2/3 done!
The main problem for me, though, is that author Adriana Trigiani tries too hard to make Tony’s Wife an epic and HEART-WRENCHING tale of the Italian immigrant experience! Sure, the premise of the story is good, but there’s too much going on—and as a result, nothing feels fully fleshed out or complete. Major life-changing events are glossed over in a couple pages. Central characters are killed off with no warning and little follow-up. World War II is briefly introduced, and then, boom, it’s over. It’s disorienting and unsatisfying.
It also didn’t help that there are these weirdly philosophical, overwritten monologues about love, marriage, infidelity, death, and other intense topics thrown in. Honestly, the death scenes in this book began to feel less like believable parts of the story and more like lazy opportunities for Trigiani to share her preachy—and somewhat cheesy—thoughts on life. No thanks.
I know there is an audience out there for this book. There are going to be more than a few readers who absolutely love it. But for me it was just okay.
Thank you Harper and Amazon Vine for the ARC!