Synopses & Reviews
Millions of readers around the world have fallen in love with the novels of the New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani. In Home to Big Stone Gap
, she tells her most powerful story yet, full of humor and heart, wisdom and hope.
Nestled in the lush Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the town of Big Stone Gap has been home for Ave Maria Mulligan Machesney and her family for generations. Shes been married to her beloved Jack for nearly twenty years, raised one child and buried another, and run a business that binds her community together, all while holding her tight circle of family and friends close.
But with her daughter, Etta, having flown the nest to enchanting Italy, Ave Maria has reached a turning point. When a friends postcard arrives with the message “Its time to live your life for you,” Ave Maria realizes that its time to go in search of brand-new dreams. But before she can put her foot on the path, her life is turned upside down.
Ave Maria agrees to helm the town musical, a hilarious reunion of local talent past and present. A lifelong friendship collapses when a mysterious stranger comes to town and reveals a long-buried secret. An unexpected health crisis threatens her family. An old heartthrob reappears, challenging her marriage and offering a way out of her troubles. An opportunistic coal company comes to town and threatens to undermine the towns way of life and the mountain landscape Ave Maria has treasured since she was a girl. Now she has no choice but to reinvent her world, her life, and herself, whether she wants to or not.
Trigiani is at her best in this exquisite page-turner. Home to Big Stone Gap is an emotional and unforgettable journey that reminds us that you can go home again and again.
*STAR* Trigiani, Adriana. Home to Big Stone Gap. Nov. 2006. 301p. Random, $25.95 (1-4000-6008-7).
Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia is Big Stone Gap, the bucolic backdrop for Trigianis popular series. In this fourth entry, Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney and her husband, Jack, must come to terms with the absence of daughter Etta, newly married and living in Italy. (The country holds a special place in Ave Marias heart: her biological father, Mario, whom she learned of and met only after her mothers death, is Italian). Ave Maria has plenty to keep her mind off missing her only child (the MacChesneys son, Joe, died of leukemia at age four). Shes a full-time pharmacist and the newly appointed director of the towns annual musical. Then comes news that her longtime friend, glamorous librarian Iva Lou, has been keeping a startling secret for nearly 20 years. Other developments, including a health scare for Jack and a Christmas visit from a colorful former resident, move the plot along briskly. With her original cast of characters, playwright and television writer Trigiani blends playfulness and pathos in this evocative portrait of a small southern town. Fans of the Big Stone Gap series can look forward to a feature film; Trigiani has written the screenplay and is slated to direct. -Allison Block
"Is there ever trouble for Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney, heroine of Trigiani's beloved Big Stone Gap novels, starting with her married daughter's move to Italy and leading right up to a stranger's disturbing appearance in town."-Library Journal
Praise for the Big Stone Gap novels:
“Delightfully quirky . . . chock-full of engaging, oddball characters and unexpected plot twists.”
-People (Book of the Week)
“Funny, charming, and original.”
“Satisfying reading . . . As skillfully as Ms. Trigiani makes us laugh, she makes us cry.”
“Heartwarming . . . Everything that really matters is here: humor, romance, wisdom, and drama.”
-The Dallas Morning News
From the Hardcover edition.
The long-awaited next chapter in the beloved and bestselling Big Stone Gap saga is an emotional, unforgettable journey of love, hope, and forgiveness.
About the Author
Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. She is the New York Times
bestselling author of the Big Stone Gap
trilogy; Lucia, Lucia; The Queen of the Big Time
; and Rococo
, and co-author of the cookbook Cooking with My Sisters
. Trigiani has written the screenplay for the movie Big Stone Gap,
which she will also direct. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. In one of the early scenes in Home to Big Stone Gap,
Ave Marias friend Theodore Tipton sends her a postcard that states, “Start living your life for YOU.” By the end of the novel, has Ave Maria taken this advice?
2. When the prospect of using mountaintop removal as an alternative form of coal mining is raised to Ave Maria and her husband, Jack, Ave Maria is instantly against the idea. Do you think she has considered both sides? What exactly is at stake in her argument with Jack about this issue?
3. Why does Trigiani include the character of Randy in her novel? What is the significance of the similarities between Randy and Joe, as well as between Randys mother and Ave Maria? What does Ave Maria learn from Randy?
4. Do you think its fair for Ave Maria to confront Iva Lou about her mysterious past? What lasting effects does this experience have on the two womens relationship? What would you do in the same situation?
5. According to Ave Marias experience, a womans method of coping is to “make things pretty when the road gets rocky,” while Jack “wants facts, answers, and drop-dead ultimatums.” Do you generally agree with her assessment of her husband? How do men and women deal with crises differently?
6. Reflecting upon Ettas move to Italy, Ave Maria says, “Maybe fate is the footwork of decisions made with loving intentions.” Do you think this is true? What examples from the book support this claim? What examples challenge it?
7. How does the trip to Scotland affect Ave Marias relationships with Etta and Jack? Do you feel that any transformations have occurred?
8. Bridges, both literal and figurative, are an important symbol throughout the novel. Why is one of Jacks goals to build a bridge? What sorts of bridges are constructed-and dismantled-throughout the course of the novel? Finally, how do you interpret Ave Marias statement that “Jack needed to build it, if only to know the deep river that runs through Crackers Neck Holler”?
9. Perhaps more so than any of the other novels in this series, Home to Big Stone Gap grapples with the theme of loss. One of Ave Marias major challenges throughout the book is learning how to let go and come to terms with moving on. In what ways has she accomplished this by the end of the novel? In what ways is she still hanging on? How do Ave Marias experiences compare with your own?
A Conversation with Etta MacChesney Grassi
Adriana Trigiani sat down with Etta MacChesney Grassi for a late-afternoon cappuccino in the dining room of the Edelweiss Inn in Schilpario, Italy. High in the Alps, spring was in full bloom, and so was Etta, who was expecting her first child.
Adriana Trigiani: Etta, how does a girl make the leap from a life in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to the mountains of Italy?
Etta MacChesney Grassi: There’s not that much of a difference to me. I was so close to the folks back home that when I got married, it seemed natural to try to develop the same ties here that I had there. I miss my parents, but this is a real adventure for me, so I try to focus on that. And I have my grandfather here, which is a big plus.
AT: So you plan to live here forever?
EMG: (laughs) For the foreseeable forever. I’m having the baby here, and Stefano has his career, so yes, I figure we’ll be here for a long time. I want to finish my degree, and I should be able to do that in the next year or so.
AT: What are your dreams for your child?
EMG: Well, I hope I’m as present as my mother was–she was very attentive to my brother and me. She could drive me crazy, but at the same time I knew it was coming from a good place. My father and I have always had an easy relationship. I can tell him anything and he doesn’t freak, whereas Mom gets a look on her face like she might faint. I’ve learned what I can say to one or the other.
AT: What kind of a parent do you think you’ll be?
EMG: I hope I’m a fun parent. But I’m traditional, too. My mother was thirty-six when she had me, and I’m twenty-one. That’s a big difference, but . . . I don’t know, it feels exactly right for me. I always wanted to have a family while I was still young.
AT: Italian will probably be your child’s first language. Will you teach him English?
EMG: Definitely. Stefano speaks English very well, and we speak it at home. I’m sure the baby will learn both. Stefano and I plan to travel a lot with the baby. It’s so easy over here–there are trains everywhere.
AT: What’s your favorite place in Italy?
EMG: Right here. But there’s so much in Italy to see. Stefano and I go to Santa Margherita whenever we get a chance. We love Lake Como. It’s close and it’s luscious–a big, glorious navy blue lake. When we go there I always think of Big Cherry Lake back home. Dad used to take us canoeing up there.
AT: Whenever I come to Italy, I always feel like I’m home.
EMG: It’s hard not to. The people are so warm and welcoming. And they’re baby-crazy over here. You know, there aren’t a lot of big families in Italy anymore.
AT: I hear the population growth is flat.
EMG: Most families have one child. The ones I know, anyhow.
AT: Do you know how many children you want?
EMG: Two or three.
AT: Have the first one and then get back to me on that!
EMG: (laughs) That’s what I hear!
AT: Do you have a preference for a girl or a boy?
EMG: (laughs) It’s been predicted that it will be a boy–but we don’t know yet.
AT: Do you have any names picked out?
EMG: You won’t tell?
AT: Of course not!
EMG: Well, if it’s a boy, we’re thinking about Giacomo–for my dad. And if it’s a girl, Ave Maria.
EMG: I’ve always loved my mother’s name. It will be an odd choice over here–because in Italy, it’s a prayer. But it’s also very symbolic. My grandmother chose it for my mother as a sort of talisman, to protect her. That always appealed to me.
AT: You really are a traditionalist.
EMG: (nods) I never knew my grandmother–my mother’s mother–but she is so alive to me because of the stories my mother has told me about her. I feel very blessed that I come from a long line of strong women. We have, at times, a crazy history–I guess all families do–but it’s always been magical to me. It seems we survived despite a lot of obstacles. And it also seems that we each made our choices and have lived by them. I think it’s important to embrace your choices and go with them. My mother–and from what I hear, my grandmother, too–never second-guessed herself. I hope I’m like them in that way.
AT: I have one piece of advice for you.
AT: Make sure you can say “epidural” in Italian. Believe me, when the moment comes, you’ll want to know that word.
EMG: (laughs) Don’t worry. I’ll get the translation.