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Big Stone Gap    by Adriana Trigiani order for
Big Stone Gap
by Adriana Trigiani
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

A friend loaned me three books of a series new to me. After reading Big Stone Gap, I am looking forward to cracking the next two. Adriana Trigiani places the village of Big Stone Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, which immediately caught my attention because I travel that way several times a year to visit friends. I always glory in the ride, passing rolling hills and peaks of mountains covered with stands of trees, cows and sheep dotting the closer landscape.

When we meet pharmacist Ave Maria Mulligan, she has just lost her mother. Big Stone Gap is a community that takes care of its own. Ave is surrounded by friends, especially Iva Lou, the woman who runs the bookmobile. Ave is single, teetering on the brink of her thirty-sixth year, and sees nothing but loneliness in her future. She has a dear friend, Theodore, who insists on remaining just that - a dear friend. One unforgettable day in 1978 brings great changes in her life, as Ave finds she is not whom she thinks she is. In shock, she tries to make sense of the jumble of her mother's life.

This is a love story. Not the usual romance, but a true love story showcasing Ave's love of her mother's memory, the people of her community, her home, and the mountains that give her inspiration every day. It's a heartwarming tale of loyalty, friendship and caring, of generosity in both the pocketbook and the soul, of villagers looking after one another no matter what. It's a book to curl up with, to give yourself over to the pleasure of reading about someone who could live next door to you or down the block. After the first few chapters you will feel you might have grown up with Ave - or wish you had. She is someone you want to console and to cheer for.

The characters are unusual, as are their names. It's easy to close your eyes and visualize Big Stone Gap from the descriptive prose. There is a recipe for Mamaw Skeen's Possum. Not too sure I would want to try it, but it's kind of neat to know how cook it. We meet a religious group that handles snakes. Elizabeth Taylor makes a stop at Big Stone Gap to stump for her then husband John Warner - and almost leaves it in a pine box. I enjoyed the sense of humor running through Big Stone Gap along with Ave's ability to stand back and reflect on herself and the happenings around her.

Treat yourself to this book. You won't regret it. I am circling the next two books in this series as I might a beautifully wrapped Christmas present. Can't wait to see what's inside, but hate to end the suspense.

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