A warning to the reader before picking up Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens: do not Google Loretta Young if you don’t want major spoilers!
That out of the way, this is a fun book that goes down as smoothly and sweetly as the gelatos of its heroine Alda Ducci’s native Italy. This is surprising, as the story should be a bit painful—the reviewer kept bracing herself for the bad part, but the bad part never came. Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, is also a good enough writer to overcome the weirdness of putting fictional, Preston Sturges-worthy dialogue into the mouths of people who actually lived. She does this through an unselfconscious immersion in her subject matter. In this case, it’s the golden age of Hollywood, the splendor and otherworldliness of movie stars and the lengths they and their studios went to to keep scandal out of the headlines back in the day.
Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Alda, a former nun who comes to work as Loretta Young’s secretary. Alda, whom we follow from her insecure 20s to her matriarchal 10th decade, gets the hang of Hollywood very quickly as she sees to her boss’s needs and keeps her confidences. She even falls in love with the Brooklyn-born scenic painter on Call of the Wild, a movie starring Young, Clark Gable and a dog.
Speaking of dogs, the top dog in Trigiani’s tale has to be Gable himself. He reminds the reader of that charming mutt in Lady and the Tramp, with Loretta Young in the role of the lovely and pampered cocker spaniel who falls for him. When we meet Clark, he’s working on his second—or is it his third?—marriage. But why shouldn’t he fall for Loretta Young? In the book, she is a good woman, devoutly Catholic, beautiful, compassionate, hardworking and immensely forgiving. As for Clark Gable, well, he’s Clark Gable. He can do what he wants. Indeed, all of the movie stars in Trigiani’s novel are good people, deep down. They also do what they want. That’s what makes then irresistible, both on the screen and in this starstruck, warm-hearted book.