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Big Cherry Holler    by Adriana Trigiani order for
Big Cherry Holler
by Adriana Trigiani
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In this second of the series that began with Big Stone Gap, the author takes a more serious look at life. Ave Maria McChesney's Etta is now in third grade. She lost her son Joe to leukemia when he was four, in a tragedy from which she can't recover. Her spunk is still evident, as is her love for her daughter.

Ave works part time at the pharmacy that was once hers. She has given up her EMT work and seems to be concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other day by day. When her husband Jack Mac tells her that the coal mine, where he has worked all his life, has closed down, her only reaction is to take charge. There is no sympathy or understanding. Jack Mac and Ave seem to have lost their connection with each other when they lost their son. A trip to Italy, where Ave visits her relatives and views a tall stranger as more than just another man, makes her take stock and determine what she wants from life - and from her husband.

Ave's ruminations about her problems are well written and could be used as a self-help guide to a flagging marriage, or possibly to keep a good marriage from faltering. As with Big Stone Gap, the characters are alive and vivid. From chain smoking Iva Lou to town's emergency tech Spec, or Fleeta who works at the pharmacy and purloins the beauty lotion to Ave's friend and mentor Theodore, the town pulses with life. And it also rallies around when the need is felt. What appears on the surface as nosiness and gossip is only a thin layer over a caring inner core that manifests itself in good deeds.

It is a hard book to read in one respect because Big Cherry Holler grabs you by your conscience and won't let go until you examine your own life. But it's also an uplifting book in which the human spirit rises to the surface and takes a big gulp of fresh air.

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