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  • Written by Adriana Trigiani
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  • Written by Adriana Trigiani
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Big Stone Gap

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A Novel

Written by Adriana TrigianiAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Adriana Trigiani



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List Price: $11.99

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On Sale: January 01, 2003
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-46361-6
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group

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Read by Adriana Trigiani
On Sale: May 15, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-449-01150-8
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Read by Adriana Trigiani
On Sale: July 05, 2000
ISBN: 978-0-7393-0056-5
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

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 Gap is a gem of a book with a giant heart. . . .


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

This will be a good weekend for reading. I picked up a dozen of Vernie Crabtree’s killer chocolate chip cookies at the French Club bake sale yesterday. (I don’t know what she puts in them, but they’re chewy and crispy at the same time.) Those, a pot of coffee, and a good book are all I will need for the rainy weekend rolling in. It’s early September in our mountains, so it’s warm during the day, but tonight will bring a cool mist to remind us that fall is right around the corner.

The Wise County Bookmobile is one of the most beautiful sights in the world to me. When I see it lumbering down the mountain road like a tank, then turning wide and easing onto Shawnee Avenue, I flag it down like an old friend. I’ve waited on this corner every Friday since I can remember. The Bookmobile is just a government truck, but to me it’s a glittering royal coach delivering stories and knowledge and life itself. I even love the smell of books. People have often told me that one of their strongest childhood memories is the scent of their grandmother’s house. I never knew my grandmothers, but I could always count on the Bookmobile.

The most important thing I ever learned, I learned from books. Books have taught me how to size people up. The most useful book I ever read taught me how to read faces, an ancient Chinese art called siang mien, in which the size of the eyes, curve of the lip, and height of the forehead are important clues to a person’s character. The placement of ears indicates intelligence. Chins that stick out reflect stubbornness. Deep-set eyes suggest a secretive nature. Eyebrows that grow together may answer the question Could that man kill me with his bare hands? (He could.) Even dimples have meaning. I have them, and according to face-reading, something wonderful is supposed to happen to me when I turn thirty-five. (It’s been four months since my birthday, and I’m still waiting.)

If you were to read my face, you would find me a comfortable person with brown eyes, good teeth, nice lips, and a nose that folks, when they are being kind, refer to as noble. It’s a large nose, but at least it’s straight. My eyebrows are thick, which indicates a practical nature. (I’m a pharmacist—how much more practical can you get?) I have a womanly shape, known around here as a mountain girl’s body, strong legs, and a flat behind. Jackets cover it quite nicely.

This morning the idea of living in Big Stone Gap for the rest of my life gives me a nervous feeling. I stop breathing, as I do whenever I think too hard. Not breathing is very bad for you, so I inhale slowly and deeply. I taste coal dust. I don’t mind; it assures me that we still have an economy. Our town was supposed to become the “Pittsburgh of the South” and the “Coal Mining Capital of Virginia.” That never happened, so we are forever at the whims of the big coal companies. When they tell us the coal is running out in these mountains, who are we to doubt them?

It’s pretty here. Around six o’clock at night everything turns a rich Crayola midnight blue. You will never smell greenery so pungent. The Gap definitely has its romantic qualities. Even the train whistles are musical, sweet oboes in the dark. The place can fill you with longing.

The Bookmobile is at the stoplight. The librarian and driver is a good-time gal named Iva Lou Wade. She’s in her forties, but she’s yet to place the flag on her sexual peak. She’s got being a woman down. If you painted her, she’d be sitting on a pink cloud with gold-leaf edges, showing a lot of leg. Her perfume is so loud that when I visit the Bookmobile, I wind up smelling like her for the bulk of the day. (It’s a good thing I like Coty’s Emeraude.) My father used to say that that’s how a woman ought to be. “A man should know when there’s a woman in the room. When Iva Lou comes in, there ain’t no doubt.” I’d just say nothing and roll my eyes.

Iva Lou’s having a tough time parking. A mail truck has parked funny in front of the post office, taking up her usual spot, so she motions to me that she’s pulling into the gas station. That’s fine with the owner, Kent Vanhook. He likes Iva Lou a lot. What man doesn’t? She pays real nice attention to each and every one. She examines men like eggs, perfect specimens created by God to nourish. And she hasn’t met a man yet who doesn’t appreciate it. Luring a man is a true talent, like playing the piano by ear. Not all of us are born prodigies, but women like Iva Lou have made it an art form.

The Bookmobile doors open with a whoosh. I can’t believe what Iva Lou’s wearing: Her ice-blue turtleneck is so tight it looks like she’s wearing her bra on the outside. Her Mondrian-patterned pants, with squares of pale blue, yellow, and green, cling to her thighs like crisscross ribbons. Even sitting, Iva Lou has an unbelievable shape. But I wonder how much of it has to do with all the cinching. Could it be that her parts are so well-hoisted and suspended, she has transformed her real figure into a soft hourglass? Her face is childlike, with a small chin, big blue eyes, and a rosebud mouth. Her eyeteeth snaggle out over her front teeth, but on her they’re demure. Her blond hair is like yellow Easter straw, arranged in an upsweep you can see through the set curls. She wears lots of Sarah Coventry jewelry, because she sells it on the side.

“I’ll trade you. Shampoo for a best-seller.” I give Iva Lou a sack of shampoo samples from my pharmacy, Mulligan’s Mutual.

“You got a deal.” Iva Lou grabs the sack and starts sorting through the samples. She indicates the shelf of new arrivals. “Ave Maria, honey, you have got to read The Captains and the Kings that just came out. I know you don’t like historicals, but this one’s got sex.”

“How much more romance can you handle, Iva Lou? You’ve got half the men in Big Stone Gap tied up in knots.”

She snickers. “Half? Oh well, I’m-a gonna take that as a compliment-o anyway.” I’m half Italian, so Iva Lou insists on ending her words with vowels. I taught her some key phrases in Italian in case international romance was to present itself. It wasn’t very funny when Iva Lou tried them out on my mother one day. I sure got in some Big Trouble over that.

Iva Lou has a goal. She wants to make love to an Italian man, so she can decide if they are indeed the world’s greatest lovers. “Eye-talian men are my Matta-horn, honey,” she declares. Too bad there aren’t any in these parts. The people around here are mainly Scotch-Irish, or Melungeon (folks who are a mix of Turkish, French, African, Indian, and who knows what; they live up in the mountain hollers and stick to themselves). Zackie Wakin, owner of the town department store, is Lebanese. My mother and I were the only Italians; and then about five years ago we acquired one Jew, Lewis Eisenberg, a lawyer from Woodbury, New York.

“You always sit in the third snap stool. How come?” Iva Lou asks, not looking up as she flips through a new coffee-table book about travel photography.

“I like threes.”

“Sweetie-o, let me tell you something.” Iva Lou gets a faraway, mystical twinkle in her eye. Then her voice lowers to a throaty, sexy register. “When I get to blow this coal yard, and have my big adventure, I sure as hell won’t waste my time taking pictures of the Circus Maximus. I am not interested in rocks ’n’ ruins. I want to experience me some flesh and blood. Some magnificent, broad-shouldered hunk of a European man. Forget the points of interest, point me toward the men. Marble don’t hug back, baby.” Then she breathes deeply, “Whoo.”

Iva Lou fixes herself a cup of Sanka and laughs. She’s one of those people who are forever cracking themselves up. She always offers me a cup, and I always decline. I know that her one spare clean Styrofoam cup could be her entrée to a romantic rendezvous. Why waste it on me?

“I found you that book on wills you wanted. And here’s the only one I could find on grief.” Iva Lou holds up As Grief Exits as though she’s modeling it. The pretty cover has rococo cherubs and clouds on it. The angels’ smiles are instantly comforting. “How you been getting along?” I look at Iva Lou’s face. Her innocent expression is just like the cherubs’. She really wants to know how I am.

My mother died on August 2, 1978, exactly one month ago today. It was the worst day of my life. She had breast cancer. I never thought cancer would get both of my parents, but it did. Mama was fifty-two years old, which suddenly seems awfully young to me. She was only seventeen when she came to America. My father taught her English, but she always spoke with a thick accent. One of the things I miss most about her is the sound of her voice. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can hear her.

Mama didn’t want to die because she didn’t want to leave me here alone. I have no brothers or sisters. The roots in the Mulligan family are strong, but at this point, the branches are mostly dead. My mother never spoke of her family over in Italy, so I assume they died in the war or something. The only relative I have left is my aunt, Alice Mulligan Lambert. She is a pill. Her husband, my Uncle Wayne, has spent his life trying not to make her angry, but he has failed. Aunt Alice has a small head and thin lips. (That’s a terrible combination.)

“I’m gonna take a smoke, honey-o.” Iva Lou climbs down the steps juggling two coffees and her smokes. In under fifteen seconds, Kent Vanhook comes out from the garage, wiping his hands on a rag. Iva Lou gives Kent the Styrofoam cup, which looks tiny in his big hands. They smoke and sip. Kent Vanhook is a good-looking man of fifty, a tall, easygoing cowboy type. He looks like the great Walter Pidgeon with less hair. As he laughs with Iva Lou, twenty years seem to melt off of his face. Kent’s wife is a diabetic who stays at home and complains a lot. I know this because I drop off her insulin once a month. But with Iva Lou, all Kent does is laugh.

I like to be alone on the Bookmobile. It gives me a chance to really examine the new arrivals. I make a stack and then look through the old selections. I pick up my old standby, The Ancient Art of Chinese Face-Reading, and think of my father, Fred Mulligan. When he died thirteen years ago, I thought I would grieve, but to this day I haven’t. We weren’t close, but it wasn’t from my lack of trying. From the time I can remember, he just looked through me, the way you would look through the thick glass of a jelly jar to see if there’s any jelly left. Many nights when I was young I cried about him, and then one day I stopped expecting him to love me and the pain went away. I stuck by him when he got sick, though. All of a sudden, my father, who had always separated himself from people, had everything in common with the world. He was in pain and would inevitably die. The suffering gave him some humility. It’s sad that my best memories of him are when he was sick. It was then that I first checked out this book on Chinese face-reading.

I thought that if I read my father’s face, I would be able to understand why he was so mean. It took a lot of study. Dad’s face was square and full of angles: rectangular forehead, sharp jaw, pointy chin. He had small eyes (sign of a deceptive nature), a bulbous nose (sign of money in midlife, which he had from owning the Pharmacy), and no lips. Okay, he had two lips, but the set of the mouth was one tight gray lead-pencil line. That is a sign of cruelty. When you watch the news on television, look at the anchor’s mouth. I will guaran-damn-tee you that none of them have upper lips. You don’t get on the TV by being nice to people.

On and off for about four years straight the face-reading book was checked out in my name, and my name only. When I went up to Charlottesville on a buying trip for the Pharmacy, I tried to hunt down a copy to buy. It was out of print. Iva Lou has tried to give me the book outright many times. She said she would report it as lost. But I can’t do that. I like knowing it’s here, riding around with old Iva Lou.

I guess I’m staring out the windshield at them, because they’re both looking at me. Iva Lou stomps out her cigarette with her pink Papagallo flat and heads back toward the Bookmobile. Kent watches her return, drinking her in like that last sip of rich, black Sanka.

“I’m sorry. Me and Kent got to talking and, well, you know.”

“No problem.”

“Face-reading again? Don’t you have this memorized by now? Lordy.”
Adriana Trigiani|Author Q&A

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani - Big Stone Gap

Photo © Tim Stephenson

ADRIANA TRIGIANI is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. The author of the bestselling Big Stone Gap trilogy and the novel Lucia, Lucia, 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.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Adriana Trigiani

Iva Lou Wade Makin, Big Stone Gap’s favorite librarian, sat down at the Mutual Pharmacy cafeteria/fountain with Adriana Trigiani for an interview. Iva Lou had a chili dog, Ms. Trigiani had a diet pop. They both had a lot of laughs.

IL: First things first, girl. What’s it like to live in the big city after you’ve lived in a small town?

AT:
It’s noisier in New York City than it is in Big Stone Gap. And you can get a newspaper everyday, not just once a week. And you’d think that you have your anonymity in the city, but you really don’t. People get to know you in your neighborhood. I look at Manhattan as if it’s made up of a lot of Big Stone Gaps that hook together and make a city. It feels like home; it is home.

IL: I loved your book. Especially the way I looked in it. By the way, I stopped selling the Sarah Coventry in seventy-nine.

AT: I’m sorry to hear that.

IL: Most people around here think you got things purty accurate, except for the geography. You moved places around–like the Roaring Branch. Did you mean to do that?

AT:
Fiction gives the writer license to invent, rearrange, imagine. I moved things in my imagination, so it’s a mix of the real and true and the Big Stone Gap of my heart, which is a kind of Brigadoon to me. It’s not a physical place, as much as it’s an emotional place; a place I grew up in with my family and friends. When I called your Bookmobile “a glittering royal coach,” I surely meant it.

IL: I was surprised by that. I’ve been trying to git the county to give it a paint job for about five years here–your description did not help me acquire those funds.

AT:
Sorry.

IL: Now, honey, we need to get down to the brass tacks. Everyone in town agrees that the people in your novel are based on real people. We’re trying to figure out who is who. Obviously, I am me. But who is Ave Maria?

AT:
Ave Maria is the woman you can count on. She’s your best friend; the person you go to for advice, the person who has a cool head in a crisis. Maybe she’s a loner and lives a life of service and not of intimacy. She’s the woman that you wonder about. You hope she finds a nice man. You hope she’s happy; she certainly seems to be. That’s what the novel is about. A person may appear to be one thing, but inside of them there’s a river of complexities and fears and desires. When you find that out, there is no end to the depth of emotion. The book is really about the interior life and feelings of that woman you know; perhaps she even reminds you of yourself.

IL: Yeah, but who is she?

AT:
She’s herself.

IL: Yeah, but who? People round here think it could be . . . (Iva Lou turns off the tape recorder.) Okay, we’re back on folks, I apologize, I didn’t want to name no names.

AT:
That’s a good idea. Besides, she isn’t just one person. She’s an amalgam.
IL: How about Theodore?

AT:
Well, he’s based upon a friend of mine who is from Scranton and is a great artist. Our dynamic is a lot like Theodore and Ave’s. So it was fun for me to access the way we communicate and explore how we’re present for one another in our friendship.
IL: What about Jack Mac?

AT:
He too is a combination of ideas of men. But I would have to say that my husband reminds me of him; though I was surprised by the direction the character has taken in this book; and I think all my readers will be surprised when they’ll find out where he goes in the sequel. I think this is what is so powerful about fiction. The writer enters a world to record the story, the action of that world, and it is full of twists and turns and revelations that surprise even the writer.

IL: You sayin’ you don’t have control of the story?

AT:
A lot of times I don’t. I have control of how I’m telling it, but not why. If I have an idea that I want to use, sometimes it feels like I’m shoe horning it into the book, so I step back and let the world of the imagination take over and guide me. And that place, inside all of us, where creativity is the engine, and where ideas are born, never lets you down. You simply must listen.

IL: I read a lot o’ books, honey, but I never knew that was going on behind the scenes.

AT:
It’s an amazing process. It’s not pretty. It consumes me.

IL: Sort of like how I feel when I’m reading a good book.

AT:
Yeah.

IL: I’ve loaned out your book a lot, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you the most commonly asked question I git from readers. Why would Ave Maria, a pharmacist, go with a coal miner?

AT:
How snobby!

IL: I thought so too.

AT:
Well, I guess the readers have a small point there. Here is this woman who went off to college and returned home, while Jack Mac had his life in the coal mines. What would they have in common? And of course, Jack is with Sweet Sue; their relationship seems like a match, she offers him an instant family.

IL: Yeah, but Sweet Sue is in it for herself.

AT:
She’s a young divorced woman with two kids. I could see why she would appreciate a man like Jack.
IL: Yeah, but she wasn’t right for him. Ave was!

AT:
Sweet Sue is a woman for whom things seem easy–she’s pretty, she’s fun and bubbly. She never seems to have a bad day. Of course, we know that couldn’t possibly be true, but this is Ave’s book, not Sweet Sue’s.
IL: Thank you Lord for that.

AT:
What I like about Jack and Ave is that they don’t seem right for each other. But, as it is in real life, there is a connection that can not be denied by either of them. Sometimes the power of what we feel overwhelms all other decisions; our hearts rule our heads. Now, the sequel dives into that very issue: What happens to Jack and Ave; how do they make this marriage of opposites work?

IL: Honey, I thought Big Stone Gap was a book about falling in love. Sounds like Big Cherry Holler is a book about staying in love. One more thing. I love the Mario da Schilpario revelation because I think there is nothin’ more fascinatin’ than a family secret revealed.

AT:
The revelation of the relationship between Mario and Ave was the foundation upon which the story turned. Ave had this very difficult and painful past. She grew up in a home with a father that ignored her and was irritated by her presence; and a mother whom she adored and who tried to compensate for the lack of a loving father. I believe that in order to be alive in a marriage, truly alive and there for the person we are with, we have to understand where we come from. The marriage (or lack of one) you saw as a child shapes your adult life. It’s what you know; so that is the place from which you make your daily decisions about how you will be in a relationship.
If you noticed, both Jack and Ave were attached to their mothers. They both needed to let go of their parents in order to find each other. Ave thought the answer would be to find her real father. What Mario shows her is that the answers were inside her all along.
I believe that when we talk about how hard marriage and relationships are, we are really talking about our parents’ marriage and how we perceive it.
IL: So the past is important in dealing with the present.

AT:
Absolutely. And the best places where these themes can be explored in depth are in books and of course, in other art forms, such as painting, music, theatre, film, and television.

IL: Honey, we understand you’re shooting the movie right here in Big Stone.

AT: Yes we are.

IL: Can I be in it? I always saw myself as a star, and now I want my chance to shine in the spotlight. Do you think you could hook me up?

AT:
Anything for you, Iva Lou.

Praise

Praise

Praise for BIG STONE GAP
"Charming . . . Readers would do well to fall into the nearest easy chair and savor the story."
USA Today

"Delightfully quirky . . . chock-full of engaging, oddball characters and unexpected plot twists, this Gap is meant to be crossed."
People (Book of the Week)

"As comforting as a mug of chamomile tea on a rainy Sunday."
The New York Times Book Review

"A touching tale of a sleepy Southern town and a young woman on the brink of self-discovery and acceptance."
Southern Living

"Ave Maria's spunky attitude, sardonic wit, and extravagant generosity compel you into her fan club . . . . Delightfully entertaining."
Tampa Tribune

"A delightful tale of intimate community life [where] the characters are as real as the ones who live next door."
Sunday Oklahoman

"In a sassy Southern voice, [Trigiani] creates honest, endearingly original characters."
— Glamour


From the Hardcover edition.
About the Book|Discussion Questions

About the Guide

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion


1.Why do you think the author set Big Stone Gap during the late 1970s instead of today?

2.The coal mines are the site of danger and oppressiveness, while the cav-erns Ave Maria and Theodore visit reveal the beauty hidden deep in the earth. How does this dichotomy reflect Ave Maria’s inner world during her yearlong crisis?


3.As the novel progresses and Ave Maria learns more about herself and her past, her feelings for Big Stone Gap change from contentment to disassociation to joy. Have your feelings for your hometown changed as you’ve changed? How?


4.Ave Maria refers to herself as a “ferriner,” but when she visits Italy she realizes that her home is in Big Stone Gap. What other works have you read in which the hero or heroine must travel to find his or her home in the world?


5.Ave Maria’s description of some events, such as kissing Theodore after the Drama and Jack Mac’s reaction to her gratitude for bringing over her Italian family, differs from other people’s perspectives. Do you be-lieve Ave Maria’s interpretations? Why or why not?


6.Theodore and Ave Maria have romantic feelings for each other, but never at the same time. If their feelings had been more coordinated, do you think they would have entered a lasting marriage? Do you think their “best friend” relationship will endure after Ave Maria and Jack Mac’s wedding?


7.When did you suspect that Ave Maria would fall in love with Jack Mac?
What were the clues that the author left?

7.Jack Mac tells Ave Maria, “Stop thinking.” Is Jack Mac correct? Does too much thinking lead Ave Maria into making the wrong choices? Are her emotions a trustier guide or equally unreliable?


8.A common theme in literature is that the heroine (e.g., Snow White, Cinderella, Jane Eyre, Nancy Drew) must lose a parent or parents before she is free to discover who she really is. Is this merely a literary convention or does it have roots in real life? Does it apply to male char-acters as well? How much significance does Mrs. Mac’s death have to Jack Mac’s personal development?


9.Ave Maria feels relief and not much surprise when she learns Fred Mulligan is not her father, and later she recognizes aspects of herself in Mario. Though Fred is not her blood kin, what traits did he pass on to Ave Maria while he raised her? How much of Ave Maria’s person-ality was shaped by nature and how much by nurture?


10.When describing her friend Iva Lou, the majorette Tayloe, and Sweet Sue, Ave Maria focuses on the power of beauty and desirability, but she also cautions Pearl that beauty fades while character endures. How does Pearl synthesize the importance of character with the force of beauty?


11.Both Ave Maria and Worley discover their fathers aren’t who they thought they were, but Worley learns of his true parentage when his father is still alive. Do you think Ave Maria’s expectations of love and marriage would have been affected if she had learned the truth about Mario before her mother died? How?


12.Ave Maria is named for the mysterious woman who took Ave Maria’s mother under her wing. Do you see another meaning in Ave Maria’s name? Does it tie in with her developing belief in des-tiny and faith?


Big Cherry Holler, Adriana Trigiani’s next novel about the people of Big Stone Gap, jumps forward eight years into Ave Maria and Jack Mac’s marriage. Knowing these two characters as you do, do you ex-pect the path of true to love run smooth for them? What quirks do Ave Maria and Jack Mac bring to the relationship that could cause bumps or, conversely, even out the way?

Discussion Guides

1. Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion


Why do you think the author set Big Stone Gap during the late 1970s instead of today?

2. The coal mines are the site of danger and oppressiveness, while the caverns Ave Maria and Theodore visit reveal the beauty hidden deep in the earth. How does this dichotomy reflect Ave Maria?s inner world during her yearlong crisis?

3. As the novel progresses and Ave Maria learns more about herself and her past, her feelings for Big Stone Gap change from contentment to disassociation to joy. Have your feelings for your hometown changed as you?ve changed? How?

4. Ave Maria refers to herself as a ?ferriner,? but when she visits Italy she realizes that her home is in Big Stone Gap. What other works have you read in which the hero or heroine must travel to find his or her home in the world?

5. Ave Maria?s description of some events, such as kissing Theodore after the Drama and Jack Mac?s reaction to her gratitude for bringing over her Italian family, differs from other people?s perspectives. Do you believe Ave Maria?s interpretations? Why or why not?

6. Theodore and Ave Maria have romantic feelings for each other, but never at the same time. If their feelings had been more coordinated, do you think they would have entered a lasting marriage? Do you think their ?best friend? relationship will endure after Ave Maria and Jack Mac?s wedding?

7. When did you suspect that Ave Maria would fall in love with Jack Mac? What were the clues that the author left?

8. Jack Mac tells Ave Maria, ?Stop thinking.? Is Jack Mac correct? Does too much thinking lead Ave Maria into making the wrong choices? Are her emotions a trustier guide or equally unreliable?

9. A common theme in literature is that the heroine (e.g., Snow White, Cinderella, Jane Eyre, Nancy Drew) must lose a parent or parents before she is free to discover who she really is. Is this merely a literary convention or does it have roots in real life? Does it apply to male characters as well? How much significance does Mrs. Mac?s death have to Jack Mac?s personal development?

10. Ave Maria feels relief and not much surprise when she learns Fred Mulligan is not her father, and later she recognizes aspects of herself in Mario. Though Fred is not her blood kin, what traits did he pass on to Ave Maria while he raised her? How much of Ave Maria?s personality was shaped by nature and how much by nurture?

11. When describing her friend Iva Lou, the majorette Tayloe, and Sweet Sue, Ave Maria focuses on the power of beauty and desirability, but she also cautions Pearl that beauty fades while character endures. How does Pearl synthesize the importance of character with the force of beauty?

12. Both Ave Maria and Worley discover their fathers aren?t who they thought they were, but Worley learns of his true parentage when his father is still alive. Do you think Ave Maria?s expectations of love and marriage would have been affected if she had learned the truth about Mario before her mother died? How?

13. Ave Maria is named for the mysterious woman who took Ave Maria?s mother under her wing. Do you see another meaning in Ave Maria?s name? Does it tie in with her developing belief in destiny and faith?

14. Big Cherry Holler, Adriana Trigiani?s next novel about the people of Big Stone Gap, jumps forward eight years into Ave Maria and Jack Mac?s marriage. Knowing these two characters as you do, do you expect the path of true to love run smooth for them? What quirks do Ave Maria and Jack Mac bring to the relationship that could cause bumps or, conversely, even out the way?


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