Don't Sing at the Table: Lessons I Learned from My Grandmothers
by Adriana Trigiani


Harper, 2010. ISBN 978-0-061-95894-6.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 01/06/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Elders

I have long been a fan of Adriana Trigiani. Her books are a rich tapestry of strong female characters, well-grounded values and intricately woven story lines. It was with great anticipation that I began reading Don't Sing at the Dinner Table: Lessons from My Grandmothers. Trigiani did not disappoint.

As she muses about both of her grandmothers, she provides backstory which brings some of the characters in her books to life more fully. Both Lucia and Viola have been part of her, as large as life itself.

Trigiani has a beautiful gift for making even the simplest lesson seem like a rare gem of wisdom as she introduces her readers to the women who shaped so much of what she herself has become—so much of what makes her the incredible writer that she is today.

From these influential women in Trigiani's life, lessons about life, love, marriage, work ethics, money, business sense, and a myriad other topics were imparted...not just in words but through their examples on a daily basis. Trigiani's grandmothers lived and breathed these principles each and every day, and some lessons were obvious to her even as a child, while others, she recalls, are only more recently apparent.

Throughout the entire book I felt as though I was sitting at a table sharing a cup of coffee and friendly conversation with the author. But the most poignant part of her book is the Afterward. A few thoughts:

"I learned how to be a woman from my grandmothers. They taught me their simple definition of feminism: make your own living."

"Clean up your debts as you go; let the obligations to pay off the debt fuel your ambition."

"Leave your children your values, not your stuff."

"Remember who you come from; you owe them because they gave you the ticket to this adventure. Honor the debt."

"Words evaporate in thin air like smoke but actions galvanize the spirit and reinforce good intentions."

Perhaps one of Trigiani's most profound statements is the fact that for many women, the approach to living most likely came from "the sages in your life." She is quick to point out that sages need not be blood relatives, even though hers were her grandmothers, Lucia and Viola.

I savored every word of this book and was sad to see it end. The peaceful nature of its message was a healing balm at the end of a busy day at work. This book is a treasure for all to enjoy!


Adriana Trigiani is an accomplished writer perhaps best known for her "Big Stone Gap Series" which includes Big Stone Gap, Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon and Return to Big Stone Gap. She has written several other stand alone novels, including Very Valentine and Queen of the Big Time. In 2009 her first young adult novel was published as Viola in Reel Life. This Spring, 2011 a sequel (Viola in the Spotlight) is due out. She co-authored a cookbook with her sister Mary (with contributions from their sisters and mother). Don't Sing at the Table is her first non-fiction work. Trigiani's books have been translated into several languages and are sold in 35 countries world-wide. She is married, has a daughter Lucia and lives with her family in Greenwich Village. Visit her website.

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