“How do you face the future, when the past won’t let you go?” Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani is a novel based on love, loss, humour and charm.
Its 1978 in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Ave Maria is the single 35 year old town Spinster, also known as the town Pharmacist. Her mother has recently passed away and Ave has received a letter from beyond her mother’s grave. As Trigiani unleashes Big Stone Gap, Ave is taken on the different paths of life, unexpected turns and twists that reveal the long lost secret her mother has kept about her real father for the last 35 years. Trigiani portrays the novel through her own eyes, giving quirky characters and mind-boggling questions of an everyday life to the story, making you - the reader, try to answer them.
Ave Maria (aka the town spinster) is the genuine, kind-hearted girl who doesn’t believe much in love. She is the volunteer of the town rescue squad- Chief of this in fact, the drama director/producer of school productions and overall a willing person who helps everyone, whatever the cause. When Ave hears the news about her father she is shocked ‘My mother could not bear the thought of me ever being ashamed of her, so she lied to me’. Ave’s life changed, people looked at her differently, and she felt vulnerable, judged for something she hadn’t even known about until that day.
She is usually the busy, organised girl, who loves her work and goes to the bookmobile every Friday. But as soon as the news is out, things change dramatically. New things occur, everything happening at once. Eventually she doesn’t know who she is anymore. ‘For the first time in my life I feel the thread of who I am unravel. I am one of those people who swears she knows herself well, who in any given situation can be described and counted on to behave in a certain way’.
Ave was rapidly self-destructing. “I’m not lonely. Or desperate. Or one bit sad. I don’t need to be saved!” and as more secrets uproot, Ave has just about reached her limit. “My mother has two sisters, Twins.” ‘I sit down on the floor. The letters are scattered all around me, filled with more shocks and surprises. I wonder how much more I can take.’
I felt sympathy for Ave as in six months of her life, her mother died, she found out the secret of her real father and her mother’s upbringing was a complete lie. Then Jack Mac Chesney and her best-friend Theodore both proposed to her, and she had a nervous breakdown. This raises the idea that you can’t be expected to deal with all this at once. After living such a remote life to then bear the weight of all this on your shoulders is too much, and Ave is the one that had to deal with this. When Ave finds her life taking a different path she realises she might as well go for it, and decides to search for her father. “After much contemplation, I decided that it was time to take control of my destiny and figure out why I was put on this earth”. Strong-willed, determined and persistent Ave is about to leave when her whole family turns up on her doorstep. This takes Ave by surprise and when she discovers that it was Jack who sold his own truck to pay for Ave’s family to come to Big Stone Gap, she is overwhelmed!.
“Why did you sell your truck? It was fully loaded. It…