A few weeks ago I was sipping some coffee and doing a little online shoe shopping when I was interrupted by an email from Tom Donadio, the Editorial Manager of The Book Report Network. It's been a while since my last book review for Bookreporter.com --- I've been pretty busy these days and haven't had as much time to review as I'd like. Tom's email mentioned that there was a new Adriana Trigiani book coming out --- a new novel in her Big Stone Gap series –-- and he asked me if I would be interested in reviewing it.
It took all of two minutes for me to reply, "YES!" The book showed up a few days later, and it brought Christmas to Seattle early this year.
Since it's been about four years since we last left our friends from Big Stone Gap (in MILK GLASS MOON), the chance to reconnect with old, dear friends like these feels like a rare, treasured opportunity you want to savor slowly. Readers of the Big Stone Gap series know that her characters, particularly protagonist Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney, also feel like family.
The novel opens with the return of Ave Maria and Jack to their home in Big Stone Gap after the wedding of their daughter, Etta, in Italy. Ave Maria is struggling with "empty nest" syndrome, as she has a hard time adjusting to the realization that her daughter's happiness resides half a world away in Italy with her new husband. Ave Maria also struggles with her worries for her husband, whose many years as a coal miner have taken their toll on his health. And a long-held secret comes to the surface, threatening the relationship between Ave Maria and her longtime friend, Iva Lou.
To say more about the plotline of HOME TO BIG STONE GAP would ruin it, because much of the joy here is in the unexpected --- like taking a walk through your long-forgotten hometown and rounding the corner, only to bump into your best friend from your school days. As is fast becoming her trademark, Trigiani includes a few recipes fresh from the kitchens of Big Stone Gap --- including one for Shorty Johnson's Biscuits and Gravy that I'm hoping to try this weekend --- that undoubtedly will inspire some fans to try to bring the taste of Big Stone Gap to their own tables.
If it's been a long time since you've been back to Big Stone Gap, this latest arrival is a great reason to dust off your well-thumbed copies and read through them again to get yourself reacquainted. And if you have a book-loving friend who's never met Ave Maria, Jack Mac, Iva Lou, Theodore Tipton, Fleeta and the rest, Trigiani's publisher has just reissued the first three novels in lovely trade paperback editions.
There's nothing like inviting friends to come home for the holidays, and this latest offering from Adriana Trigiani makes it a wonderful homecoming indeed.
Reviewed by Lourdes Orive on January 22, 2011
Home to Big Stone Gap