"Tony's Wife" by Adriana Trigiani; Harper (496 pages, $28.99)
Adriana Trigiani offers a charming look at midcentury Italian-American family life and a humorous glimpse into the travails of celebrity with "Tony's Wife," the decades-spanning tale of debonair crooner Tony Arma (born Saverio Armandonada) and plucky singer-songwriter Chiara (Chi Chi) Donatelli.
Tony and Chi Chi, from working-class backgrounds, meet in the big band era as he's becoming a star. They team up professionally, finding success, friendship and, eventually, love. They get married, despite his womanizing ways, during World War II. Estranged from his macho father, Tony can't forgive family-focused Chi Chi for letting his parents see their twin baby daughters before he's home from the war. Chi Chi endures far more unforgivable actions on Tony's part, as well as a truly horrible tragedy. Along the way, there are encounters with Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson and a toupee maker named Sy Warmflash of Samson's of Fifth Avenue. Through it all, Chi Chi remains resilient, clever and hardworking, refusing to be a victim.
A few scenes drag (a tawdry hotel encounter with an old crush, a long-winded deathbed confession). But "Tony's Wife" shows the rewards and regrets of a long life, and offers the lesson that "happiness is all about accepting what's enough."
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