In this captivating sequel to Big Stone Gap, we rejoin Ave Maria Mulligan and her husband Jack MacChesney at a point in their marriage that could be the end for them. Three years ago, their son Joe died. And the loss, followed by the period of mourning, have taken their toll. Daughter Etta, who was a year older than Joe, seems to be the glue that cements them.
But the tests that prey on their bonds include many stressors, like the closing of the mining company where Jack worked for many years; the start-up of a new company, bringing temptation along with it; and the realization that they are each just going through the motions.
After many years of being the self-described town spinster, Ave’s independence could be the very blow that kills their union.
How does Ave’s and Etta’s trip to Italy for the summer cast a new light on everything? Was leaving Jack behind, at his request, be the final nail that kills the two of them? Or will the time apart remind them of their love and what needs to happen next?
Just as with the previous story of this beautiful part of Virginia, BIG CHERRY HOLLER invites the reader right into the setting. The author paints word pictures that show us the world as our characters see it. And the sense of community, both in Big Stone Gap, and later in Italy, makes us feel as if we’re right there with them. I know that I want to revisit these characters and these settings again. And while spending time with them here, we get to see them cast in a lovely and yet real portrait of lives going through struggles; lives that come out the other side with a sense of what it means to reinvent themselves. Five stars.