Discussion #1: Very Valentine

Yes it’s that time, Chicken Lit’ers – time for our first discussion of book #32, Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. As before, stop right here if you haven’t reached the end of chapter 7. (Spoiler alert!) Otherwise, read on and take a gander at these questions:

  • Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, “I am not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.” How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?
  • One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine’s life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.
  • What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine’s family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?
  • Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina (“Mike”), and her grandmother, Teodora. What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?
  • Valentine’s sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?
  • What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?
  • Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?
  • Mike also advises her daughter, “I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life.” Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?
  • Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?
  • Valentine describes the art of making shoes: “My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes.” What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine’s passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?
  • And finally, how do you feel about Adriana Trigiani’s writing style? Read any of Trigiani’s books before this one? Willing to read more of her novels in the future?

Feel free to answer all, some, or none of the above – we just want to know your thoughts. Not meant to be homework-like, Chicken Lit’ers.

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19 Responses to Discussion #1: Very Valentine

  1. Still working on my answers – youth orchestra stole my entire weekend, but I’ll be back soon! Can’t wait to read yours.

  2. maksbestfriend says:

    I am in chapter 5. Some unexpected health issues are creeping up. Not my eyes. Mitch is taking me to the doctor tomorrow. I am listening as a way to relax. I will tell you how long her book is on audio, though. For me to get through chapter 5 all the way through chapter 7, is another 3 hours of listening. Heavens, she is wordy. Not really complaining. But just seems like she could have condensed down a bit, unless this is really leading somewhere?

  3. maksbestfriend says:

    • Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, “I am not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.” How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?

    I think that she always finds herself lacking. I am not sure why. But I am seeing the picture becoming clearer. I think that she has taken her break up of her first relationship as an excuse for not giving her best of herself in all aspects of her life. I think that Roman and Alfred are going to be a challenge to that way of thinking.

    • One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine’s life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.

    I think that their bond as a family is rich and deep, and all encompassing. But at the same time, it can be stifling. She doesn’t have to try too hard to live her life and move on, because she always has her family there to fall back on. She has the shoe company with her grandmother to work for. She isn’t struggling. I think that the thought of Alfred having the broker buy the building is making her grow a backbone and decide what is truly important to her.

    • What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine’s family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?

    I don’t think that I would fit into that family. I am too much an independent thinker and I stand up for myself and am not afraid to say what I think. I know that the family is important, but you have to make a family out of people who truly love you for you, and surround you and hold you up, when you are successful and when you are struggling. I think that Some in the Roncallis need to decide that they have to support Valentine in the good times and the bad. And support her when she is trying to keep the family tradition of the shoe company alive.

    In my family growing up, my mother was more interested in my stepfather, than with her children. I can’t help but feel like we were always in the way. Well that isn’t true for all of us children. Just my older brother and myself. My two younger siblings were their children and they got all the attention, and we seemed to be in the way. Sad way to spend a childhood. I think that is why we grew up and moved away and have not had an adult relationship with her.

    • Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina (“Mike”), and her grandmother, Teodora. What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?

    I think that she gets an independent streak from her mother. And I think that she gets that can do anything attitude from her grandmother. I think that she seems to get equal amounts from both. I think that she is learning that neither has had an easy life, and that both have had to make their way through life, and made choices, some good, some not so good, and lived with them, and are making the best of them. But that you have to keep moving forward and not become stagnant where you are.

    • Valentine’s sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?

    I think that Pam is very different from the sisters. I think that some of it is because she is petite. I think that some of it is because they presume that she is a smaller image of Alfred. I think that the name that they give her is very hurtful. I think that they come from different backgrounds in life, and neither tries to get to know the other, and assumptions are made.

    • What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?
    Traditions are nice. Like observing Christmas and Thanksgiving, and Easter. But we make our own. We don’t stand to hard and fast traditions. We are open to learning new things. Sometimes we travel and share traditions with family and friends. And we learn new traditions from spending them together.

    • Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?

    I think that she can. I believe in the adage that you have to love yourself before you can love another. I think that she is coming to that point in her life.

    • Mike also advises her daughter, “I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life.” Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?

    I think that Mike grew up in a different time than Valentine. I do not think that she is going to set her expectations as lowly. I am not sure that I would have been so forgiving if my husband had had an indiscretion, but I would have to be in that situation. One has to have expectations. I think that she would still be single if she had none.

    • Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?

    I think that if she fails, she is going to have to learn to grow some wings and find out what she really likes. Something new. Take on a new adventure. Does she have another skill set? Something else that gets her juices flowing?

    • Valentine describes the art of making shoes: “My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes.” What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine’s passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?

    As long as we are willing to learn and take chances, our ability to grow and evolve are endless. We just have to be willing to be open to the change!

    • And finally, how do you feel about Adriana Trigiani’s writing style? Read any of Trigiani’s books before this one? Willing to read more of her novels in the future?

    I have not read any of Adriana’s books before. I am just in Chapter 8. I do think that she has long chapters. It is an okay book, though, shorter, and more to the point chapters would have been better.

  4. maksbestfriend says:

    I am in Chapter 12 almost to 13. How are you? Are you still with me?

  5. @maksbestfriend – I am just finishing ch 8 and hoping to post my disc #1 answers tomorrow. Bear with me, I’m wearing multiple ‘hats’ this week! (More than usual.)

  6. * Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, “I am not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.” How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?
    At first, Valentine didn’t seem so much like a “funny” sister to me, at least not until the top-of-the-apartment episode. What was she thinking? At least she captured Roman’s attention with that little stunt! Anyway, by envisioning herself as “funny” she didn’t seem to take herself or her life situation seriously. I like her character but feel bad that she seems to be living under her family’s thumb(s), despite the fact that she has given her life up to care for Gram. She undervalues her care-giving and support of the family business, and her family seems to do likewise.

    * One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine’s life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.
    I see the Roncalli family as tight as most typical Italian-American families, also rich in tradition. Each member watches the other’s back and acts as a safety net in times of need. Valentine’s brother and Grandmother were there for her when her relationship with Brett ends and she changes careers, a bond she needed in order to scoop up the pieces of her life. Although, I wonder if the help came a little too easily, and that maybe she never quite learned how to handle adversity after being so sheltered. She never fully understood the money problems Gram was facing until it was too late, leaving her to have false dreams about salvaging the shoe company. Valentine’s view of reality is somewhat skewed after all that coddling.

    * What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine’s family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?
    The Roncalli definition of family mostly involves being Italian but with an American flair. They share many years of history, staying close not only in trust, love, family traditions, but also in proximity to one another.

    My family experience is one that started in New England, also with a rich Italian background combined with British, German and French blood. The strongest ties were that of Italian and German, which didn’t make much of a difference to me while growing up as an “Air Force Brat”. Relocating often, family to us centered around friendships acquired from Air Force Base to Air Force Base, as we supported one another in our ever-transient lives. All a person had to do was say they were affiliated with the Air Force, and they were instant “family members”.

    * Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina (“Mike”), and her grandmother, Teodora. What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?
    When I think of Valentine’s mother and grandmother, I envision two dedicated, hardworking, steadfast and loving women. They devoted themselves to the livelihood of the family, each living her life in support of the big picture. Like them both, Valentine is holding onto what has been built up over the years. I do think she is more like her grandmother in the way she follows her heart in what she chooses to do with her life, whereas her mother sticks with the career she is given (full-time motherhood) rather than pursuing her dreams.

    * Valentine’s sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?
    After learning of the tight Roncalli family ties, Pam needed to accept their way and loosen up a little rather than shrink away during family situations. In this way, she set herself up to be poked by the sisters in her isolation. Yet even though Valentine did seem to sense Pam’s discomfort, she made no effort to help Pam fit in, nor did her sisters.

    * What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?
    Having and sharing traditions in the family is extremely important in my life, especially after having experienced my parents’ divorces while growing up. I want my children to have experiences they can count on from year-to-year and feel comforted in sharing/creating memories as a family together. As an adult, I can only wish to have had traditions carried on from past generations. So instead, we continue seeking out ways to start our own family traditions, such as holiday decorating the week after our wedding anniversary, opening a single present on Christmas Eve before attending church, breakfast in bed on Mother/Father’s Day, setting off a fireworks display in the neighborhood on the Fourth of July, etc. The list just keeps on growing.

    * Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?
    I think it would be difficult for a woman to be fulfilled while being single, but it must be possible. Valentine can be happy without a man as long as she’s doing what she loves to do. Although, having a man by her side for support would be much more fulfilling for her.

    * Mike also advises her daughter, “I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life.” Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?
    I think Mike’s advice is bogus. What mother would tell her own daughter not to have high hopes in life? Didn’t she ever hear the phrase, “You get what you wish for”? Mike doesn’t seem like having low expectations has given her the happiest life. Rather, she seems to have settled.

    Personally, I’ve always expected more out of life for myself and would be miserable in asking for less. It’s a good thing Valentine does not follow her mother’s advice, otherwise the family business would not have any hope for survival.

    * Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?
    If Valentine fails at saving the shoe company, I sense that she will refocus her energy toward something else positive, such as a new business start-up with her own new exclusive product line.

    * Valentine describes the art of making shoes: “My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes.” What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine’s passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?
    Depending on the time and place, my shoes speak volumes about me, just as I know the same is true for others. In fact, sometimes I wish they were saying something other than what I might be expressing by wearing them! Valentine seems to be showing the world the beauty, grace, and creativity in her soul with her custom made shoe creations. She wants everyone to know how unique she is inside by wearing what she is most passionate about creating.

    * And finally, how do you feel about Adriana Trigiani’s writing style? Read any of Trigiani’s books before this one? Willing to read more of her novels in the future?
    I find Trigiani’s writing style descriptive, almost prose-like, having the ability to etch scenarios in the reader’s mind. In this book, she doesn’t dwell much on action, but rather on relationships, focusing on family situations. I haven’t read any of her novels before, but would be willing to try another to see if this is her typical way of writing.

  7. maksbestfriend says:

    I just finished the book. Let me know when you get a chance to finish it. Hope that things are going well today! TGIF, even if it is Friday the 13th! 😉

  8. @maksbestfriend – Just finished ch 11. Things are mixing up! Can’t wait to read about Valentine’s adventures in Capri.

  9. maksbestfriend says:

    No comments coming from me, because I want you to get to the end all by yourself!

    So what did you get at B&N?

  10. @maksbestfriend – ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett, ‘Power of Three Warriors: Dark River’ by Erin Hunter (for CG), and 4 others for CS – ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ volumes 5 & 8, ‘Garfield Gets His Just Desserts’, ‘Garfield: Food for Thought’.

    I started the first chapter of ‘The Help’ and got hooked on Stockett’s writing style. Looks like a potential pick for #34. Your thoughts?

  11. Wait… the Picoult book first! Cannot wait for that one.

  12. And did you know Kyra Davis has another novel that is available for pre-order on Amazon? Here’s the link: Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss

  13. maksbestfriend says:

    Works for me, since we both have it. Are we reading Handle With Care first?

  14. maksbestfriend says:

    Did you see that Jennifer Crusie is going to have a new book too, called Strange Bedpersons? Here is the site:

    http://www.jennycrusie.com/books/strangebedpersons.php

  15. @maksbestfriend – that would be my choice, but I also checked out ‘This Charming Man’ from the library in case Gina wants to join us. I’m checking with her and will let you know.

  16. @maksbestfriend – thanks for the ‘heads up’ on the Crusie novel. I’ll add it to our Books page along with the Davis novel. Must keep track.

  17. Still on ch 12 with too many interruptions this afternoon. I will be done tomorrow morning during my salon visit – just enough reading left to keep me occupied while processing. Then, it’s official, we’re on with ‘This Charming Man’ with Gina reading, too. *woohoo!*

    Anyone else game? Let the Chicken Lit’ers know – we’re always glad to have you along w/us.

  18. maksbestfriend says:

    Ok, will read that book, but am reading HWC, too. I am up to page 141 if you choose that book. If not, I am going to read it for pleasure.

  19. Go right ahead and finish HWC. I’ll read it on my own but will touch base with you on your thoughts. That one must really hit home, so I can see why you want to continue. It really sounded touching, even after the very first chapter.

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