Book Review: Big Stone Gap

Big Stone Gap
Published By: Fawcett Books
Publication Date: January 2003
Page Count: 320
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Appalachian Fiction

Big Stone Gap is a small town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. The story is set in the 1970's, but those who are familiar with the mountains will soon realize that while styles have changed, the sorts that inhabit these towns have not. I could see so many of the people I know from my own experience in Appalachia reflected in these characters. Mountain folks are an interesting lot with hearts as big as the sky, superstitions that run deep, and enough love and laughter to fuel a lifetime of happiness. Some of my fondest memories are spending time in the mountains with family and friends. For this reason, Big Stone Gap will forever be a treasured place for me. I love this town and its people. I've even started making plans to visit the real town one day.

The main character, Ave Maria Mulligan, considers herself to be the town spinster. At thirty-five, Ave believes that her chance at love and a family has passed. She copes with the disappointment just fine for the most part, but when her mother dies, she finds herself in a state of disbelief and disillusionment. Her mother left behind a letter that explains that the life Ave always thought to be true was filled with lies. Ave's father is in Italy in the small town of her mother's childhood. She is not the daughter of the local pharmacist after all. Ave struggles to wrap her brain around her new identity and figure out what this means for her future. She finds a deep passion for learning as much as she can about her mother's past.

As Ave struggles to find her place, she feels disconnected from her home and friends in Big Stone Gap. A whole cast of hilarious and heartwarming people are there to remind her how much she mean to the town. The friendships she has in this novel never cease to make me smile. I know I have already mentioned it, but I adore these characters. It doesn't hurt that Ave loves books as much as I do. I am particularly fond of the stubbornness that colors the relationship between Ave and Jack. 

Trigiani has done a beautiful job of capturing small town mountain life. The strong sense of place permeates this story which thrills my nerdy little heart. I love writers who create vivid images of their setting. 

In addition to the vivid descriptions, I love Trigiani's ability to make me feel so much. Her novels tend to put me through a variety of emotions and this one was no exception. There were moments when I cried, moments when I laughed so hard it hurt, and moments when I was content. Reading this novel was like wrapping up in a warm, handmade quilt with a mug of hot chocolate and extra marshmallows. 

I can't recommend this novel enough. I also would suggest seeing the film which came out recently. I loved it as well and thought the casting was perfect. While some things were changed for the film, I found that it stayed true to the heart of the story and these amazing characters. I really need to finish this series!

One Last Gripe: Ave Maria was frustrating from time to time.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The characters

First Sentence: This will be a good weekend for reading.

Favorite Character: Jack

Least Favorite Character: Ave's aunt and uncle

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the tiny town of Big Stone Gap is home to some of the most charming eccentrics in the state. Ave Maria Mulligan is the town's self-proclaimed spinster, a thirty-five year old pharmacist with a "mountain girl's body and a flat behind." She lives an amiable life with good friends and lots of hobbies until the fateful day in 1978 when she suddenly discovers that she's not who she always thought she was. Before she can blink, Ave's fielding marriage proposals, fighting off greedy family members, organizing a celebration for visiting celebrities, and planning the trip of a lifetime-a trip that could change her view of the world and her own place in it forever. 

Brimming with humor and wise notions of small-town life, Big Stone Gapis a gem of a book with a giant heart. . . .


  1. I absolutely adored The Shoemaker's Wife. I should read this one...Thanks!

    1. The Shoemaker's Wife is one of my all time favorites and was my first experience with Trigiani's writing. This doesn't have the historical feel that The Shoemaker's Wife had, but I loved it just as much.

  2. Adriana Trigiani and I went to the same college, although not in the same year. I'm really excited to see the 'Big Stone Gap' movie, but my favorite of her novels is still 'Lucia Lucia.' I'm reading her nonfiction memoir of her grandmothers, 'Don't Sing at the Table,' right now.

  3. You've got to read the rest of the series! It's wonderful. I live in the TN area that is mentioned in the book.


Post a Comment

We love your comments!