Thursday, July 31, 2014

audiobook review: Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers

narrated by Adriana Trigiani

The backstory: Adriana Trigiani's fiction has been hit or miss for me. I really enjoyed Big Stone Gap, although admittedly I haven't yet read the rest of the series. I enjoyed Very Valentine on audio (my favorite narrator, Cassandra Campbell, performs) and listened to the sequel too, but I don't know that I would have bothered to read it in print because I really didn't like the character of Valentine (and I haven't read or listened to the trilogy's concluding volume.) I was curious to listen to Trigiani's nonfiction, as all of her fiction I've read has had some connection to her life and her family history. 

The basics: In this memoir of sorts, Trigiani tells the stories of both of her grandmothers' lives, as well as their impact on her own life.

My thoughts: I've really been enjoying memoirs lately, and since I've been pregnant, I've particularly been enjoying memoirs about family and legacy. I thought it was the perfect time to listen to Trigiani's take on her influential grandmothers. Both of their stories are fascinating. These two women are so different, but both lived intriguing lives. The biographical sketches of these women were by far the most successful aspect of this book.

Once Trigiani had introduced both grandmothers with their life stories, the narrative completely lost its momentum. I suppose a hint of this book is in its subtitle: life lessons from my grandmothers. Trigiani passes on their advice, but she does so without offering her own perspective, which felt hollow to me, particularly when her grandmothers held deep beliefs that are in conflict with one another. I don't need one to be right or wrong, but I wished Trigiani would wrestle with the conflicting advice and what it means.

The verdict: While I found the lives of both grandmothers interesting, I wanted more than a surface-level telling. I wanted Trigiani to dig deeper and reflect rather than simply to re-tell. As it is, I found this memoir incredibly disappointing. The things I love most about memoir are the pieces of reflective writing. The story and experience are important, of course, but they are only the beginning. What comes next is what I find most fascinating. In this book, I kept waiting for something to come next, but it never did. Trigiani never lets herself look at her grandmothers in any way but blindly devoted, and simply adoring the past generations isn't nearly as interesting as exploring the shades of grey.

Audio thoughts: Because Trigiani narrates her own memoir, which is more filled with devotion than reflection, the audio comes off as incredibly heavy-handed.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Length: 5 hours 53 minutes (229 pages)
Publication date: November 9, 2010 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Adriana Trigiani's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I just read Lucia, Lucia again for a book discussion group and think that may have been her best one so far, but I also liked Big Stone Gap. I started the Valentine books on audio and think I stopped after the first one. Too predictable, but to be fair, I think it's what her fans expect!

    1. Laurie, I've heard good things about Lucia, Lucia too. I agree, too, you know what you get with Adriana, and her fans love it!


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