I just re-read Adriana Trigiani’s first three Big Stone Gap novels and now, I’m reading her latest Home to Big Stone Gap. Once I start reading her books, I cannot put them down. I’m so glad Ms. Trigiani returned to Big Stone Gap and the story of Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney. It’s a rare book that can simultaneously conjure up dreams of dancing at the Carter Family Fold and of climbing the Italian Alps, yet her novels do that for me. One minute, I want to load up the car and the children and head on over to watch the outdoor drama The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and have a picnic beside the Big Cherry Reservoir and dance the night away at the Carter Family Fold. The next minute, I want to leave the children behind and head away to Italy for a romantic second honeymoon, hiking in the Alps, drinking fresh water from a cool mountain stream, and sipping coffee while watching the locals take their traditional after-dinner walk each evening.
I went to college in Bristol, Tennessee, not far at all from Ave Maria’s Big Stone Gap. I was close friends with a guy from Pennington Gap, and I remember my 20th birthday and the long drive he and I took back into the mountain, down Gate City Highway and into Pennington Gap. We probably drove on the Trail of the Lonesome Pine. It’s easy for me to picture the story of Ave Maria’s life as it unfolds in these novels.
Maybe it’s because I am from the mountains of West Virginia, but I love stories set in the mountains. I see my extended family, my high school classmates, even myself in the characters. I can hear their voices in my head — the way they say “tarr” instead of “tire” and “theAter” with the long “a.” I can picture the small-town dynamics and the landscape details. I can smell the smoke from their fireplaces and the foods on their tables. It’s true of Ms. Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap books, and it’s also true of Lee Smith’s Appalachian stories and Sharon McCrumb’s mysteries. And even though they aren’t specific to my mountains, it’s true of other Southern writers like Olive Ann Burns and Eudora Welty.
Ok, I need to do some laundry and bake a birthday cake (Lauren is 9 today!) and unload and load the dishwasher. I’m also hoping to devour a few pages of Ave Maria’s life here and there throughout the day.
How about you? What are you reading?