At thirty-five, Ave Maria Mulligan feels like the spinster of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, the small mountain town where she has lived most of her life. Grieving the recent death of her mother, Ave Maria plans to go to Italy and meet her mother's family for the first time.
Ever read a book where you feel like you don't know the main character any better in the last chapter than you did in the first chapter? That's what this was for me. I watched Ave Maria do many things in her thirty-fifth year, but I never felt like I really understood her or what she wanted. It's possible that there was too much going on here.
When I began this novel, I thought it was going to going to focus on Ave Maria's family relationships and her love life, but no, it focuses on everyone else in town as well: the sexy Bookmobile librarian who after decades of living like a Cosmo girl decides to settle down (even though the reader never sees her significant other do anything interesting enough to cause an independent forty-something woman to want to settle down), the plain but brilliant high school girl that Ave Maria takes under wing, a rattlesnake handling evangelist, Ave Maria's attorney and his wife (and their various marital and weight problems), the current high school beauty queen, a former high school beauty queen, the two men who are fixing Ave Maria's roof, the man who loves Ave Maria desperately (even though she is evil to him for reasons that are somewhat fuzzy to me). Even Elizabeth Taylor has a cameo in Big Stone Gap. I'd like to see someone outline this monster of a plot, and then explain to me why Ave Maria is so self-righteous.
The story is weak and the character development is non-existent. While the description of the town is delightful and the visit by Liz Taylor quite humorous, the rest of the story is lacking.