The Cabrelli family has lived on the Italian coast for generations as local jewelers and pillars of their community. On her 80th birthday, family matriarch Matelda is grappling with her slowly failing health and unresolved family traumas. As Matelda takes stock of her life during a series of visits with her granddaughter Anina, she reflects on the great love stories woven through her family history and the bitter losses the Cabrellis have endured.
In 1939, Matelda’s mother, Domenica, is sent from her home in Viareggio, Italy, to work in a French hospital alongside other young women from around the world. Domenica’s initial homesickness quickly subsides as she and the other nurses go to pubs and dance on the pier. When anti-Italian sentiment sweeps through much of Europe, the hospital nuns move her to a convent in Scotland. There, Domenica meets the first love of her life. But after tragedy befalls their young family, Domenica brings 5-year-old Matelda back to the family home in Viareggio, where Domenica finds a second chance at love with a childhood friend, and Matelda begins her new life in a strange country.
Adriana Trigiani is the author of many beloved books, including Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker’s Wife. The Good Left Undone is deliciously told, with fully explored characters, mouthwatering descriptions of Italian food and charming yet quirky towns. What’s exceptional about The Good Left Undone is how seamlessly Trigiani knits together different stories from many places and times, bringing it all together in one poignant and satisfying book.
This is a gorgeously written story about intergenerational love and heartbreak, the futility of regret and the power of a life well lived. It’s also a love letter to Italy and its beautiful and painful history. As a character in the novel says, “This is the place where the worst happened, my deepest pain and highest dream. Both reside in me, but I’ve learned that the love is greater than any hurt.”