May 21, 12
Read in May, 2012
I live/work not too far from Big Stone Gap, VA, which is of course the town that made Trigiani's reputation. Ms. Trigiani has visited my library on a couple of occasions to speak. She is a great speaker and a wonderful person--vivacious, funny, and kind. When she comes to see us, she always brings her mother, who doesn't live far away, and the funniest moments in her talks have to do with the way her mother worships her sons ... but her daughters, not so much.
(If you're a librarian with any kind of speaker's budget, you need to bring her! She delivers the goods about the value of libraries, too.)
Maybe it's natural, but people around here seem to want her to talk about Big Stone--even when she came two months ago, on the heels of publishing this book! My feelings were, enough about Big Stone already! Don't we practically live there? And anyway, don't we want to hear about the new book? Don't we want to steep for a moment in Trigiani's Italian grounds?
Maybe all the time spent on Big Stone was a good thing, since it allowed me to discover the book by reading. It was a gift that opened slowly. What a pleasure! This is a rich book full of lovingly rendered historical detail (late 19th-early 20th c.) about small town northern Italy, the immigrant experience in NYC and then Hibbing (Minnesota's Big Stone Gap?), and working inside the Metropolitan Opera in the heyday of Caruso. At its heart is a love story, but I hesitate to call it a romance. Unless, that is, a romance can be about family and friendship, because most of the affecting moments in this book (and there are many) are sparked by self-effacing devotion of a transcendent kind.