Thank You for the Shoes by Raffaela Marie Rizzo is a novel based on true facts. The author has used her family’s story to write this book as a biographical novel.
It follows the story of Michele Rizzo, born to a poor family in a little mountain town in Calabria. Michele, like so many Italians in the early 1900s, sought a better life in America, but migration so often went hand-in-hand with heartbreak, loneliness, and isolation. Rizzo recounts stories of the privations that people of the little towns and villages in Calabria faced, and which often provided the inspiration to undertake a long and uncomfortable journey to a place so unlike one’s home. There are many humorous anecdotes in this book, but it is very much a story of loss and overcoming. Anyone who has ancestors who came from places like these, whether Calabria or any of the other provinces in Italy, will relate to the stories – the places, people, the history.
Michele leaves for America at the tender age of 13, already old in so many ways, but still a child. How, at that age, he gets lodgings and work, and deals with so many obstacles to eventually make a life for himself, is truly inspiring. Michele marries and has children. Life continues to hurl challenges and disappointments, but ultimately it is a story of triumph and marvel. Michele leaves a great legacy.
If this book was marketed as a biography rather than a novel, it may have read better; the book reads more as if it is a retelling of facts than a novel. It may have been a more fluid reading experience if some events and details had been left out, and others more fully and descriptively told.