Big Stone Gap

Nothing much happens in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The highlight of 35-year-old Ave Maria Mulligan’s week is when the bookmobile comes to town. As the town pharmacist, she knows intimate details about the community; sometimes more than she cares to know. She’s a member of the volunteer rescue squad and leads the drama team. Imagine the excitement when Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, John Warner, come for a visit.

Adriana Trigiani’s first novel concerns the family scandals that befall Ave Maria in this seemingly uneventful town. When the self-proclaimed spinster discovers a skeleton in her family’s closet, her quiet, conventional life is turned topsy-turvy. Greed, lust, and envy aren’t just vices confined to big city limits.

Sometimes a cute, lighthearted read is just the ticket. I listened to Big Stone Gap on a solo road trip, and it was perfect for a boring drive. The audiobook sparkled with wit, endearing characters, and vivid descriptions—I felt like I was strolling down main street with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. Narrator Grace Bennett nailed it.

My only complaint is that it took too long for anything substantive to happen… almost a quarter into the book. But then I got in the groove and fell in love with the place. It’s a feel-good romantic comedy and was a pleasant change of pace, a heartwarming light read with pockets of humor. I’ll confess, though, that it leaned toward the overly sentimental for my taste.

I’ve read other novels by the talented, and funny, Adriana Trigiani, but this was her first in the Big Stone Gap 4-book series, so I wanted to give it a try. Sure, there were moments when the writing felt clumsy, but let’s cut her some slack—it was her debut after all. Will I read the rest of the series? Maybe not, but I enjoyed this installment. Admittedly, it didn’t hold a candle to her 2012 historical novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife, but it depends on what you’re in the mood for. If you like Fannie Flagg books, this will be a winner. 3.5 stars and a thumbs up for a delightful escape.

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