Posts Tagged ‘Big Stone Gap’

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Grace, Change, and Learning the Hard Way, Shauna Niequist
I won this book in a giveaway on Alisha’s blog, and read it o’nights propped up in bed, after we got back from our bittersweet Christmas trip. Shauna writes with honesty and grace about some hard stuff – losing jobs and miscarriages and trying to find her way again. She believes in the grace of the everyday, in good meals and time with friends and celebrating small victories. She knows there are no easy answers, that faith is not a set of rules or theories, that often you have to go through the bitter to reach the sweet. I felt like I was having coffee with a girlfriend – one who’s been through the hard stuff and come out on the other side. Now I want to read her other book, Cold Tangerines.

Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear
I devoured this second Maisie Dobbs book in a DAY. Even more intriguing than the first. I love reading about Maisie’s detective methods and her relationships with her assistant, her father, her mentor and others. It’s fascinating to trace her journey as she moves beyond the Great War, but carries its legacy with her, and also as she balances her “upstairs” roots with her “downstairs” life. (She used to be a maid; now she’s a college-educated detective.) Great read. (The read-along continues at Book Club Girl.)

Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani
I am a new and passionate Trigiani fan, so I had to check out the series that made her famous. And I loved the story of Ave Maria Mulligan and all her crazy, quirky friends in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. So heartfelt and honest and so funny. I checked out the sequel right away.

Big Cherry Holler
, Adriana Trigiani
This sequel to Big Stone Gap looks at some serious issues in a marriage – what happens when grief and the routine of everyday life start to erode your passion? – with humor and style. I was rooting for Ave Maria’s marriage all the way, partly because I’m a fan of marriage in general, but partly because I knew she and Jack Mac, her husband, have something special. It was a hard journey back for them, but a rewarding one.

Milk Glass Moon, Adriana Trigiani
“The hardest part of love is letting go,” they say – which is more true for Ave Maria, the main character of this series, than it is for most. She learns to let her daughter grow up, let her friends face their own struggles, let her husband provide for the family in his own way. At times I want to shake her and at times I want to hug her – but I love spending time with Ave Maria and the rest of the Big Stone Gap gang.

Home to Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani
Lots of new challenges in this final book of the series – but it’s well worth reading to discover how they turn out. If you liked the other three books, you’ll like this one too, I think. (And the town production of The Sound of Music is downright hilarious.)

Anne’s House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery
I’ve been thinking about Anne and her life in Four Winds – her adjustment to a new community, her friendships with Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia and Leslie Moore. So I picked this book up again for some comfort. I love every page, especially Captain Jim’s tales and Leslie’s transformation. And it speaks to me because I, too, am a young wife in a new place.

Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery
I can’t tell you how much I love this book, and every character in it (well, except snarky Irene Howard), and all the adventures of life at Ingleside during World War I. My favorite part is the patient courage of the women of Ingleside, who keep the home fires burning – and so much more – while their young men are off at war. Anne, Rilla, Susan and Miss Oliver are true heroines. And the scenes with little Dog Monday make me cry every. single. time.

Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline Winspear
More Maisie – which means more mystery, more seemingly unconnected cases which turn out to be intertwined, and more about the heartbreaking legacy of World War I. This book brought some important healing – and some startling revelations – for Maisie herself. Since she’s in the business of bringing truth and healing to others, I knew it would be her turn for both eventually. Quite well done, as usual.

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace
This was a Christmas gift from Abi, who completed my collection by giving me the first four Betsy-Tacy books. I love Betsy’s visits to the library, as the world opens up to her through classic literature. I love the magic of the Opera House and the girls’ Christmas shopping expedition. And I love watching Betsy begin to blossom as a writer – and her charming poem, “The Curtain Goes Up.”

On Rue Tatin, Susan Herrmann Loomis
I found this in the Booksmith’s Used Book Cellar, and salivated over every page. Not only are Loomis’ recipes drool-worthy, but I loved the story of her time as an apprentice chef in Paris, her later move to France and the painstaking renovation of an old monastery into a home. She talks about the light, the shops, the countryside and the people with such joy and obvious affection. And some of the recipes actually look doable (a rarity in French foodie memoirs).

In the Company of Others, Jan Karon
It’s no secret I love all things Mitford, so I was thrilled to receive this new novel for Christmas. And oh my, I loved it. Heartbreaking, funny, poignant and real – and set in Ireland, which I adore. I appreciate Father Tim’s deep humility and Cynthia’s wisdom, and I enjoyed meeting the new characters, especially Pud (short for Pudding), the shoe-chewing Jack Russell terrier.

The Language of Trees, Ilie Ruby
I met Ilie at a writing workshop – a morning of shop-talk and sharing at the Concord Bookshop. She’s charming and zesty in person, so I had to pick up her book (and get her to sign it). And I was irresistibly drawn into this story of a community on the shores of Lake Canandaigua in upstate New York. Powerful stories; elegant writing; characters I wanted to walk with and talk with. And so much here about the power of secrets – those we tell, and those we keep.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
I picked this one up in Concord too, because I’d been hearing about it. A charming, unusual love story set in the English countryside, with quirky characters and a delightful, unlikely hero. (And frequent references to how to properly brew a cup of tea.) This is about family, love, prejudice and choosing to live your own life, and I loved it.

Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Burgis
I’m always entering contests to win galleys of books, and this one arrived in the mail this week. Regency England + lighthearted magic + a spunky 12-year-old narrator = oodles of fun. Jane Austen with a dash of Harry Potter, for the younger set. It’s the first in a trilogy and I’m eager to see what happens to Kat and her family.

Newsgirl, Liza Ketchum
I found this one in the YA alcove at Brattle – and bought it because I love the movie Newsies, and the book’s title brought it to mind. Amelia, age twelve, travels to California during the Gold Rush with her mother and her mother’s business partner. Desperate for money, she cuts off her hair, dresses as a boy and joins a gang of newsboys. She also accidentally goes up in a balloon, and finds her way home again, while doing a bit of growing up. Funny, historically fascinating and heartwarming.

I’m rereading Little Women now, for the first time in a while, as well as digging into more Maisie books and other literary gems. Tell me, what are you reading?

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.

Shocker, I know; but I think I’ve been doing it for a different reason than usual. I’ve been feeling a bit adrift since the holidays, as we returned from Texas, and as J and everyone else have headed back to work. I’ve had a lot of freelance work to do, but am still spending much of my time alone in our apartment. And the contrast between my solitude and the warm embrace of our dear ones in Abilene has seemed greater than ever.

So I’ve been reaching mostly for books about small, tightly knit communities: Creagan, Scotland; Big Stone Gap, Virginia; Avonlea and Carlisle and Glen St. Mary, Prince Edward Island; Deep Valley, Minnesota. The kind of small towns where you run into people you know at the grocery store or walking down the street. Places where a close circle of friends are in and out of each other’s daily lives, spending real time together, not just talking on the phone or via email. Places like the ones listed in the comments of Mike’s recent post, where he asked readers, “Do you have a Mayberry?”

Boston isn’t our Mayberry. Not even close. We still haven’t met many of our neighbors; we have to drive for a while to get to church or go to Nate and Abi’s or have dinner with other friends. I love walking around the city, especially the Beacon Hill area, but then it’s a 20-minute T ride back home. Here in Quincy, I can walk to the branch library and the drugstore and the post office, but I’m still not likely to run into anyone I know. We are – I am especially – still feeling our way, trying to find our place in this new community. In some ways it will never feel like Mayberry, or like Mitford, or like Abilene. That’s all right.

However, it’s still a bit lonely sometimes, and it’s comforting to know I can pick up a book and head to one of my favorite small towns whenever I need to. I don’t even have to buy an airplane ticket or fill up the car with gas. All I have to do is turn the page.

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