Wonder why that’s the title of my review of Queen of the Big Time,by Adriana Trigiani?! If you’re an Italian AND a Louis Prima fan you find it mentioned in this story of an Italian-American family. I loved when I read in the book that the song, “Oh Marie,” was mentioned! Our family, when we all get together, love to put our favorite Italian songs on to sing along with.
Known and loved around the world for her sweeping Big Stone Gap trilogy and the instant New York Times bestseller Lucia, Lucia, Adriana Trigiani returns to the charm and drama of small-town life with Queen of the Big Time. This heartfelt story of the limits and power of love chronicles the remarkable lives of the Castellucas, an Italian-American family, over the course of three generations. (Goodreads.com)
Queen of the Big Time begins in 1924, in Roseto, Pennsylvania. We discover the story of Nella Castaluca and her family. Nella loves to read and wants to become a school teacher. It’s her dream and goal in life. Life does not always bring us what we hope and desire. This is Nella’s story. We learn how her family deals with adversities in life. Nella’s parents are such strong wonderful role models for her. It’s about Nella’s first love for Renato. To me there was a love triangle so to speak with Franco Zollerano.
Each main character was well developed. Nella’s family members were so real to me as well as their friends you meet throughout the book.
I was first drawn to this story because I’ve read other books by Trigiani. Secondly I’m 100% Italian: Vicini, Marchesi, Rozzati, & Guerrini! I could relate, associate, and connect with parts of the story which dealt with the Italian heritage. The food described in the book was so deliciously described! The sponge cake recipe. Homemade sausage and pepper sandwiches along with onions & crusty rolls. Also polenta and chicken stew cooked in a bagna! Just thinking of it makes my mouth water. All of these are staples in our family. I laugh to myself when a meal is described in the book – the order in which Italians eat a meal – the salad follows what you would call the main entree. I always eat my salad last!
Catholic religious rituals were prominant throughout. The Catholic ritual of lighting candles in front of the Blessed Mother and praying to her. Nella is young and doesn’t understand why events have happened. Her priest helps her to understand how important faith is. He explains “God protects us because he loves all His children.” Nella has a challenging and arduous time with faith until much later in her life. There is a point in time after she is older that she finally truly discovers faith when it is right in front of her. Then there are the countless saints we pray to for various reasons. We pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost articles. How many times has my mother said to me if something has been lost? “Pray to St. Anthony, he’ll help you recover what you lost.” Not only does St. Anthony help to find “items” but also to find what we’ve lost from within ourselves. That’s what Nella is searching for at one point in her life.
Family plays an important role in this story. The Castaluca’s are proud people as all immigrants who came to America they wanted a better life for their families. I know this for a fact because of my grandfather Joseph Marchesi. He came to America as a young boy of 11 years old. He worked in the coal mines. Through his hard work ethic he became a successful and well respected businessman in our community. He was so well thought of that upon his death, our family received a certificate from the governor of Illinois praising him of his contributions in life. This quote from the book exemplifies what I mean, “What you come from is who you are-it’s your starting place. To come from nothing and make something of yourself, to provide for a family, is no small feat.” (Queen of the Big Time, Adriana Trigiani)
I was sad when it came to the completion of Nella’s story. It felt as though I had lost a good friend. I was so moved by Trigiani’s book. I’ve told countless friends about it since I finished it. Early on, I read this wonderful quote from the book, “I wish I would have asked him what his favorite book is, because you can tell a lot about someone by the books he reads.” (Queen of the Big Time, Adriana Trigiani) I find this so true myself – hope you do as well!