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Other titles in the Big Stone Gap Novels series:

Big Cherry Holler (Ballantine Reader's Circle)


Big Cherry Holler (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Cover

ISBN13: 9780345445841
ISBN10: 0345445848
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Big Cherry Holler is a sequel to the bestselling Big Stone

Gap. Does it help to read Big Stone Gap before delving

into Big Cherry Holler? How did the author structure this

book as a stand-alone novel, and how does it function as

a continuation of the first book?

2. What is the significance of the title Big Cherry Holler,

both literally and figuratively?

3. When the book opens, Ave Maria and Jack Mac have been

married for eight years. How have her attitudes about herself

and about relationships changed during that time?

How has she remained a "spinster" in spirit?

4. Early in the book, it's disclosed that Jack and Ave's son,

Joe, died after a sudden illness. In what ways do Jack and

Ave deal with his death, both separately and together?

How does their marriage bear the scars of their son's untimely


5. What role does small-town life--both in Italy and in Big

Stone Gap--play in Ave's life? How do the mammoth

physical attributes of the outside world play against her


6. Ave Maria sees Jack Mac chatting with a tanned, blond

woman named Karen Bell, and immediately feels anxious.

What evidence of marital estrangement accumulates after

that incident? What aspects of Karen's personality do you

think would appeal to Jack Mac?

7. How does Ave Maria see Karen Bell as a rival, and in

which ways does she feel superior to her? Which feeling

ultimately proves more accurate?

8. Were you surprised by the revelation of Theodore's homosexuality?

Which clues--both in this book and in Big

Stone Gap--are provided before his confession? How do

you think this will affect his relationship with Ave?

9. When Ave's protege, Pearl, pleads with Ave to become a

partner in the pharmacy, she signs on without consulting

Jack Mac (much to his chagrin). What other decisions in

her life does Ave keep to herself? Is Jack justified in his

anger, or does he, too, keep some aspects of his life private?

Which ones?

10. Ave's daughter, Etta, is a main character in the book. Ave

describes her as "wide open, and yet very private." What

parallels can you draw between Ave and Etta, and how

are the two characters different? How is Etta a product

of Jack Mac's influence? How does she cope with her

brother's death?

11. How do the women of Big Stone Gap--Fleeta, Pearl, Iva

Lou--function as a sort of Greek chorus for Ave? How

does Ave affect each of their lives, and how do they,

in turn, influence hers? How has each woman evolved

throughout the two books?

12. The reader sees Ave Maria in a brand-new environment

when she travels to Italy. Which facets of her personality

come to the forefront? To what factors do you attribute

this change in attitude and appearance?

13. While in Italy, Ave imagines what her life would have been

like had her mother not married Fred Mulligan. How do

you envision Ave's life if she had grown up in Italy? Would

it have been more or less fulfilling?

14. Ave's haircut spurs an absolute transformation. In which

other ways does her appearance play a role throughout

the book? Of which other novels is this reminiscent?

15. What does Pete represent to Ave, both literally and figuratively?

How does he reawaken passion in her?

16. Theodore dismisses Ave's assertion that she didn't really

have an affair with Pete. How is this juxtaposition of

"word vs. deed" a recurrent motif in the book? What examples

can you find in the behavior of Ave, Jack Mac, and

their friends?

17. When Jack Mac and Ave have their confrontation about

Karen Bell, Ave admits that she wanted him to "take her

pain away." Besides Joe's death, what other issues has Ave

Maria grappled with throughout her life? How has she

usually dealt with any pain she has suffered?

18. Do you believe that Jack Mac consummated his affair

with Karen Bell? What evidence do you have for that


19. Jack Mac tells Ave, "I truly believed in us, and you never

did." What actions echo Jack Mac's assertion? How does

Jack Mac demonstrate his love for Ave?

20. At the end of Aunt Alice's life, Ave makes an effort to reconcile

with her. To what do you attribute this change of

heart? How does Ave's relationship with Alice compare to

the one she enjoys with her "Eye-talian" relatives?

21. What significance do you derive from the fact that Jack

Mac and Pete get along immediately? What does Pete's appearance

in Big Stone Gap, as promised, indicate about his

character? How is he similar to Jack Mac, and how is he


22. Do you feel that this book is a lead-up to Etta's stand-alone

story? How do you envision Etta's adolescence and


23. Adriana Trigiani, the book's author, also is an accomplished

playwright. How does this novel have the feel of a

play--whether through Trigiani's use of dialogue, setting,

conflict, or any other literary device?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Melinda Ott, August 7, 2014 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
This is one of those times that I really want to use half stars again. I enjoyed the first book, Big Stone Gap, quite a bit and gave it 4 stars. However, I enjoyed this book more and, to me it is almost (but not quite) in the 5 star category. So, in my heart, this is a 4.5 star book.

While Big Stone Gap was a book about a love story, it did wade at least knee-level into the waters of self-acceptance. Big Cherry Holler dives right into that pool. In many ways, it is the story of what comes after "happily ever after," something that I can really appreciate.

While there is quite a bit going on in this book, it really centers around Ave Maria and her marriage to Jack Mac. They are 8 years in, a time when many marriages struggle. Now, add to that the fact that they are dealing with the death of their son (this comes up in the first chapter, so I'm not considering it a spoiler!) a few years prior. That is a huge mine field for couples and many marriages do not survive such a tragedy. Then, to top it off, Ave Maria is still dealing with the "self work" she started in Big Stone Gap.

I love Ave Maria more in this book than I did in the first--even though I wanted to shake her several times during this book. But she's human and just the sort of person I'd want as a friend--and I'd want to have her friends, as she has the most entertaining social circle around.

I will say it was stressful to read about the issues in her marriage, but when is that not stressful? I do wish that Trigiani had delved a bit more into Jack Mac's side of things--after all, it takes 2 to tango and it almost seemed like Ave Maria was doing a solo out there. But, this book is ultimately about Ave Maria so that isn't bothering me as much as it might in another book.

I also wish that Trigiani had either amplified or muted some of the little side stories. They were interesting, but there wasn't enough in there for me to really sink my teeth into. I think if she had either fleshed them out, or got rid of them completely, it would have improved the book.

All in all, I loved this book enough to spend surprising little time on the drawbacks. It's a story about real life, and that I can appreciate.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

Trigiani, Adriana
Ballantine Books
New York
Humorous Stories
Married women
Mountain life
Humorous fiction
Domestic fiction
Italian American women
Big Stone Gap
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Family saga
fiction;virginia;appalachia;chick lit;italy;romance;family;novel;big stone gap;southern fiction;southern;relationships;marriage;women s fiction;american
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Big Stone Gap Novels
Series Volume:
no. 9
Publication Date:
March 2002
Grade Level:
8 x 5.18 x 0.62 in 0.5 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Big Cherry Holler (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345445841 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Trigiani is a wonderful storyteller....Readers will enjoy Big Cherry Holler immensely."
"Review" by , "Recommended...This novel of love and forgiveness delivers its story in a believable manner. Ave Maria remains someone readers would like to know, and Iva Lou, her librarian friend, still has her finger on the pulse of Mars/Venus relationships in this neck of the woods."
"Synopsis" by , The beloved author of "Big Stone Gap" returns with the continuing story of Ave Maria Mulligan and the rest of the Gap's unforgettable townsfolk. "A big-hearted novel that alternates dollops of comfort with moments of folksy charm and stark poignancy."--"Publishers Weekly."
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