Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: Big Cherry Holler

Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani
4 stars

Reason for reading: I really enjoyed the first book, Big Stone Gap; Food title for What's in a Name? Challenge

From the jacket flap: "It's been eight years since Ave Maria and Jack MacChesney walked down the aisle and, a year later, welcomed daughter Etta into their lives and the fold of the eccentric, loving mountain folk of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. They've been busy with the struggles and details of everyday life at home, at the pharmacy, and in the mines, and they've successfully weathered quite a few marital storms but there's a veritable hurricane brewing on the horizon. When the MacChesneys spend the summer apart (Ave takes Etta to her father's home in Italy; Jack stays home to get a new business off the ground-with the eager assistance of the comely local business-supply saleswoman), the very fiber of their marriage is tested. All of our favorite Gap characters return with gusto-sexy Iva Lou, honest Fleeta, insightful Pearl, wise Theodore Tipton, even the villainous Aunt Alice-to help Ave unravel the secrets, shore up the shortcomings, and rediscover the magic of the man she fell in love with."

First line: "The rain is coming down on this old stone house so hard, it seems there are a hundred tap dancers on the roof."

My thoughts: This was a great sequel. It's funny, I found Ave Maria frustrating in the first book and I found her frustrating here, but it was okay - after all, you get frustrated with real people even when you like them, why not people in a book? The most frustrating thing was that both Jack and Ave Maria come very close to having affairs and this saddened me - Jack's temptation comes first and I was angry at him and then of course I was really mad at Ave Maria, because, hello, she's been worrying about Jack doing it to her! I wanted to slap some sense into her.

But their relationship is very complicated, it seems. He blamed her for a lot of their problems and then she blamed herself, but I felt more blame should have gone to him (not that she was blameless, but neither was he). Ave Maria has a weird combination of low self esteem and self-reliance - she feels badly about herself yet feels she's always right - she runs everything well. But her husband isn't the kind of man to accept that kind of self-reliance and she did often show that, even if she thought she was trying, she wasn't really thinking about him. But I was upset that he refused to go on their planned trip to Italy (which really disappointed their daughter, which was unkind), yet it was Ave Maria's fault for not begging him to go with her. But even if it frustrated me, it was good to see a marriage portrayed as hard work and imperfect. Even if I wanted them to live happily ever after, it was more satisfying to see them have a realistic relationship and work through their problems.

As the summary says, the supporting characters are still entertaining (although Theodore seems to have taken on a cruel-to-be-kind approach to their friendship, which I found a bit harsh at times). Pearl Grimes really comes into her own as a businesswoman and Iva Lou is still there to offer advice about men. Etta is a smart and lovely child to read about - the parts near the end where she's starting to think about makeup and boys are hilarious. Example, "I spent a lot of time with Peter [the almost-affair] in Italy this summer, Iva Lou," Etta says in an accent no one has heard since Grace Kelly used it in High Society.

The Gap setting is rendered wonderfully, it makes me want to visit the mountains of Virginia. And Trigiani's love affair with Italy continues, making it sound like a heavenly place to spend a summer.
Her snappy humour is in full force, there were lots of lines that made me laugh. For some reason, this was my favourite. Pearl is talking about reopening the pharmacy's soda fountain (and boy, do I wish I had one like it nearby, it sounds like wonderful fun!).

"The only place to gather in town is Hardy's. How many sausage biscuits can you eat?" I don't want to disappoint Pearl, but the answer to the question is: a lot. Brownie Polly holds the record - fourteen sausage biscuits in one Sunday morning.

The verdict: I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time in the Gap with the next book, Milk Glass Moon.


Beth F said...

This sounds like a great series. She's such a good author.

Anonymous said...

I have The Big Stone Gap checked out of the library right now.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Beth - She really is, I'm glad to have found her.

Stacy - Woo hoo! Enjoy! :)