Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wintertime Can Only Mean One Thing... the temperature drops five degrees every hour and the weatherman is actually issuing a windchill warning, there's only one thing to do: get some fuzzy slippers, some nice warm cocoa, and a girly book. That's right, it's Chick Lit time once again! Last year's winter chick lit bender lasted for nearly three months. I read the collected works of Jennifer Weiner, Candace Bushnell, Janet Evanovich, Sandra Dallas and Plum Sykes. I went to the Utica Public Library and tried some ethnic chick lit. If it has shoes and a pink cover, I checked it out. In fact, I think one of the books I got was actually called "Pink".

This year, though, I'm trying to read through some of what I have here. I don't have much chick lit, but I do believe Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani qualifies. The book follows the fortunes of Ave Maria, a 35-year old small-town pharmacist who's never been married and recently lost her mother. She leads a settled life among good friends as a pillar of her community when she receives a shock following her mother's death: the man she always thought was her father was not.

An author like Plum Sykes would have been much less subtle about the effect this has on her main character. She would've done something like make her new father be a multimillionaire, move Ave Maria out of the mountains and into New York, where she meets her half-brother who introduces her to a prince. No shit. But Trigiani explores this in a much more realistic way. Ave Maria's father does not make his appearance until nearly the end of the book. The only direct effect this revelation has on her life is that it forces her to sell off her home and her business (ceremonially, for a dollar) in order to keep them out of the clutches of her scheming aunt. What the revelation really does is force her to take a fresh look at her life, and that of her parents, and assess where she's been and where she wants to end up.

The best part of a book like this is the characters, and they're all here. There's the Crusty Old Broad, the Friendly Wise Slut, the Best Friend, the Prince Charming. She does give several of them a little twist: instead of being a woman, the Best Friend is a man and Ave Maria is in love with him. The Prince Charming acts like an asshole for a good portion of the book and is seeing another woman at the beginning of the book. The Friendly Wise Slut is the town librarian -- a stereotype I definitely enjoyed seeing reversed.

It was also nice to see an unmarried woman relatively content with her choices. Although she does choose marriage by the end of the book, of course, she's hardly sitting home pining. She directs the town pageant, she's on the rescue squad, she owns her own business and mentors a young person. Trigiani makes Ave Maria much more complex than many authors would have.

Apparently, this is a series. I do believe it has me hooked. It's not great literature, but it is great fun. And that's what we Chicks expect out of our Lit.

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