This is Ms. Trigiani debut novel and it is set in 1970s Blue Ridge Mountains. Her heroine, Ave Maria Mulligan, possesses strength, dignity, as well as vulnerability when she sets out on the most important journey of her life - the search for authentic identity and fulfillment in love. The character of Ave Maria is believable and the supporting characters are a delight to read. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia are wonderfully depicted and visually real and gracious.
Ave Maria is shattered by the death of her beloved, immigrant mother, and she faces middle-age as an independent, but lonely woman. Ms. Trigiani sculpts her novel around Ave Maria's inability to feel, to act on impulses of love, to become something other than Big Stone Gap's sensible, efficient, spinster-like institution.
Soon enough, Ave Maria must determine not only how to treat multiple marriage proposals but to come to grips with her own startling origins. Ms. Trigiani is simply extraordinary in he resolution of Ave Maria's quest for identity, never compromising real epiphany for cliched answers. Ms. Trigiani prophetically states that
"the great mysteries in life can only be solved person to person. We can pull each other through."Americans are lucky to have yet another Southern woman to be our guide to the truths of the heart.
I really enjoyed this book because it allowed me to view the people indiginous to this region as more than toothless illiterates. (I live in a town just a few hours from Big Stone Gap.) This book was a pleasure because Ms. Trigiani's affection for these people is most touching and it's how I've come to feel. People are more than their "twangy" accents or improper grammar.