Windup of the Big Stone Gap trilogy. Big Stone Gap (2000) led us into the sleepy Virginia town of that name via the memories of Ave Maria Mulligan, a spinster pharmacist who learned that her real father was an Italian boy from Bergamo and tracked him down. In Big Cherry Holler (2001), Ave was married with a ten-year-old daughter Etta, grieving memories of a son who died of leukemia, and suspicions that husband Mac had a dish on the side. This last installment is at heart a mother/daughter story. Ave arrives in her 50s, menopausal, worried, and scared. She goes to a fortuneteller who knows all and predicts certain events that the reader awaits to see fulfilled. Etta, verging on adulthood, looks forward to studies in architecture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and to a trip to Italy—Bergamo, in fact. This throws Ave deep into trauma, but she comes to learn, as she tells us, “Love may not be enough, but when it’s right, it’s plenty.”
Down-home dialogue gives a big lift to Ave’s agonies.