Every once in a great while, a book comes along that you absolutely adore. You devour every word and are incredibly sad when it ends. Then you realize happily that you can go back to the beginning and enjoy it all over again.

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani is just that sort of book. Overflowing with humor and compassion, Big Stone Gap is the enchanting story of a woman who thinks life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come. Set in Virginia's Appalachian mountains, the novel follows Ave Maria Mulligan on her quest to discover just who she is and what she wants out of life. As the local pharmacist, Ave's been keeping the townsfolk's secrets for years, but she's about to discover a skeleton in her own family's closet that will blow the lid right off her uneventful life.

After the death of her mother, Ave Maria kept herself busy with the pharmacy, volunteer work, and as director of the town's long-running outdoor drama. She's content with her life when, suddenly, she discovers that the man she called Daddy was not her real father, and her life might not be all she always thought it was.

While trying to come to grips with this new self-realization, Ave finds herself juggling two marriage proposals, conducting a vicious family feud with her feisty aunt, and planning a life-changing journey to Italy to locate her real father. And if that isn't enough, Ave finds time to help her friend Theodore, the high school band director, design a half-time show to dazzle Elizabeth Taylor when the Hollywood star comes through town on a campaign stump with her husband, senatorial candidate John Warner.

Yes, this is a very busy book.

Filled with a delightful assortment of small-town eccentrics, Big Stone Gap is a treasure trove of unique, wise, and wonderful characters.

Author Adriana Trigiani grew up in the actual town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, during the 1970s. Honing her storytelling abilities by writing and producing some of television's top-rated shows, including the groundbreaking Cosby Show, Trigiani proves with her first novel that her talents extend to more than one medium.

Sharon Galligar Chance is the senior book reviewer for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas.

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