1. Why was Saverio Armandonada’s relationship with his dad Leone so strained after Saverio told his dad that he didn’t want to work in the Ford Rouge factory and start a career in singing? Was Leone’s response to Saverio typical of the Italian-American for that time? Can you understand Leone’s side of the argument? What repercussions did the argument have?
“They tell you they pay you, you go on the road, they no pay you. I hear stories of the show business. It’s for gypsies. You work, the boss keeps all the money. You starve. He gets fat and he gets showgirls and you get nothing.”Tony’s Wife, page 25.
2. Saverio and Leone are very different personalities that seem to be at loggerhead every holiday and lots of Sundays. Did you think that their relationship would have improve after Saverio left home? Did you want them to reconcile?
3. At the start of the book, Saverio’s mother Rosario was mentioned. She had given him wool gloves for his sixteenth birthday and packed him a hot lunch that had just come out of the oven.
a) How Italian is this behavior? b) Is this a tradition for Italian-Americans to connect with their kids via food? c) Did you relate to this? d) How does home cooked food become an important theme throughout the book?
4. Cheryl Dombroski broke Saverio’s heart when she told him that she was engaged to Ricky on the night that he was going to give her the gold chain. Do you think that this scarred him for life? Do you think the disappointment shaped his future relationships with other women?
“Cheryl, we’ve sung in the choir together since the Christmas we were eleven, and the truth is, I’ve loved you since then.”Tony’s Wife, page 13.
5. Did you enjoy the Big Band era and setting?
6. Saverio had to change his name to Tony Arma for his music career. Do you think it’s a big deal to change your name? What significance does a name have?
7. Chi-Chi was reluctant about getting married to Tony. What made her change her mind? Do you think she did the right thing even though you know the outcome of their marriage?
8. Tony’s dad Leone and Chi-chi’s dad Mariano had a very specific view life. Leone was practical and wanted his son to have a steady job and not to think about dreams. Mariano encourage Chi-Chi to pursue her dreams and build connections to make it happen. How did Tony’s and Chi-Chi’s parents view help shape their choices?
9. There are a multitude of themes in Tony’s Wife, such as career, family, love, death, sacrifice, infidelity, Italian-American culture, motherhood, and choices to name a few. Which one made the most impact on you?
10. Both Tony an d Chi-Chi became successful despite the support or lack of support they had from their parents. Do you think regardless of the background, if you’re talented and have the ambition that you will succeed? Did the time period play a role in helping a successful career in music?
11. Why can’t Tony be faithful to Chi-Chi despite his deep love for her? Why did Chi-Chi put up with his behavior for so long?
12. Were you surprised that Tony and Chi-Chi got a divorce?
13. Why do you think Tony ended up marrying 4 times? What does it say about his character?
14. Why did Chi-Chi not re-marry?
15. Trigiani does a fantastic job in writing complex characters. Who did you relate the most to? Which character did you love the most?
16. Did you like the music/lyrics in the book? Which song title in the Discography (at the back of the book) did you like the most?
17. The theme of living your dreams are in conflict when both are successful and someone has to make a choice of family or career. Do the themes resonate today? Is the theme universal? What are the differences in the historical time period to now? What about the American- Italian cultural perspective?
18. Did you have a favorite part in the book?
19. After reading Tony’s Wife, would you like to check out the author’s other prolific works?
Enhance Your Book Club:
Bring some Italian desserts such as cannolis, zeppole, amoretto biscotti, tiramisu, or panettone and play some Big Band music at your meeting!