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Mountain Culture Characters
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Adriana Trigiani
Home to Big Stone Gap (Westminster, Maryland:  Random House/Recorded Books, 2007.  Audiobook)

Original Print Version of this Audiobook

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This is a lazy and tedious story described by the jacket notes as “this exquisite novel.”  This 9.5 hour recitation could have been about 8 hours shorter.  I told my wife, as we listened to it in the car on a cross-country trip, I could easily prepare the Reader’s Digest version of this.

I don’t recommend listening to this while you are driving alone on the freeway.  This narrative, read in a lazy monotonous voice, is set in an Appalachian mountain community and deals with the personalities characteristic of a small town being forced to face the broader culture of the United States.

The intent of the author is to portray the deep cultural traits of this unique community.  It was not as successful as ethnographies of the region I have studied.  There are funny events and situations, so the experience was not a total loss.  A strong sub-plot is the local drama troupe, who have decided to present a production of a Rogers and Hammerstein classic.  Actually, the characters demonstrate a bit of charm along the way, and the story begins to gather some interest.

The narrating character, local business owner Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney, is the producer of this misfit and miscast group of would-be stage stars.  Ave Maria is an interesting, sometime engaging, local inhabitant who provides insights into local history and culture and the personalities she encounters in her daily schedule.

Ave Maria is also involved in a local controversy over industry versus conservation.  As the story develops she and her husband find themselves on opposite sides of this growing tussle.

The community theatre group's holiday production brings home an old school chum.  One of the few mountain personalities that has made it big in the outside world, he flies in from Hollywood to direct the play.  The theatre side-story includes sometimes-interesting reminiscences of the old childhood friends involved in this community affair.

Cooks will perhaps be interested in the interminable recitation of recipes.  At least one dish of every event and meal is described, the ingredients of the recipe read.  This procedure is apparently meant to add additional local cultural flavour, since the recipes are items based on the local café.

These family recipes served up at the café are apparently considered unrepeatable elsewhere, and are a local institution.  I had trouble staying awake for these boring recitations of ingredients, which sounded pretty much like any other recipe for similar dishes.

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First review notes written 22 May 2010
Review developed 2 June 2010
Final Review posted on Thoughts and Resources and Amazon 30 June 2010

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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