Saturday 21 December 2019

Big Stone Gap

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 into Shawnee Avenue, I flag it down like an old friend.

I’m re-reading old favourite the Big Stone Gap trilogy by Adriana Trigiani. Chicklit? Well maybe, but I love this portrayal of the inhabitants of an Appalachian coal-mining town set in the 1970‘s. Ava Maria Mulligan is the only person of 'Eye-talian’ origin living in Big Stone Gap and since the loss of her mother she feels an outsider in the town she was born in. At 37 she works as a pharmacist and feels she is headed towards spinsterhood until she meets very attractive miner Jack 'Mac’ MacChesney who lives with his mother in Cracker’s Neck Holler.

Like Anne Tyler, Adriana Trigiani has a gift for creating quirky characters. Iva Lou Wade, flirty librarian, driver of the mobile book van and local good-time gal known by her signature scent Coty’s Emeuraude is a brilliant creation. And then there is Fleeta the tough-talking pro-wrestling pharmacy assistant who likes to help herself to the Estee Lauder hand cream on display in the shop.

The beauty of the Appalachian mountains and the changing seasons provide a backdrop to the story and there is a fictional representation of Elizabeth Taylor’s visit to Big Stone Gap in 1978 with her then husband Republican John Warner who was on a campaign trail. Famously, Elizabeth Taylor sampled the buffet and choked on a chicken bone and had to be rushed to hospital.

A lovely read for a cold winter.