Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Waiting Room Read

What makes a book memorable?   The jungle mountain setting?  The tragic mis-timing of the lovers?  A handsome leading man with a Scottish brogue?   The hopeless feeling you got when the war ended and the heroine struggled over the washboard, scrubbing the rags of the returning soldiers? 

Maybe it was what was happening in your life when you read it.  Maybe someone you know was in surgery and your good read kept you from going crazy in the waiting room.  Maybe you were stuck in an airport, and a tale about women who trade recipes and gossip helped kill the two hours United just added to your layover.  Maybe you were stuck on a beach (oh darn!) and you remember the character getting into the yellow convertible just as a friendly seagull tiptoed a little too close to your snackbag.

Possibly, you don't remember many details, but you remember that you liked it.  You think all your friends might like it too.

On that note, I'm recommending one of my blasts from the past, Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani, a story in which the heroine's life gets shaken up when she hits age 35.

It was a waiting-room read for me.  Back when Emma was in high school, she visited the IU Dental School where they did a mouthful of dental work on her.    

Part of the dental students' practice was coming out to waiting room in their little paper lab coats and calling the names of their patients.  Some looked shy about doing it, afraid that no one would answer their call.  But when someone did, they practiced their doctor chat, skillfully feigning interest in a repeat patient's vacation, or ailments, or whatever.

Down the row, two old ladies talked loudly about their clubs at church.  "Ours is called Prime Time.  It's for people 55 and up, but I really think the age should be 65.  The 55-year-old ones won't come because they don't want to be old."

It's a miracle I could read anything at all, with so much going on in this place.  But a good-enough story will keep you coming back, in spite of practice doctors and chatty old ladies. 

Since I remember enjoying the book, but don't exactly remember why, I'm calling on Amazon for a little help here.  Publisher's Weekly said: 

Trigiani's story of a middle-aged spinster finding love and a sense of self in a small Virginia coal town is a lot like a cold soda on a hot summer day: light and refreshing, if just a little too sweet. Trigiani, a playwright, filmmaker and former writer for The Cosby Show, has a Southern voice that perfectly embodies her main character, the embattled Ave Maria Mulligan. Ave Maria, who's satisfied if not exactly happy in her role as the town pharmacist, begins questioning her quiet, country life after a posthumous letter from her mother reveals a jarring secret. Ave Maria soon faces a crisis of identity, the advances of a surprising suitor and the threat of her acerbic, money-grubbing Aunt Alice. From the suitor, who points out his brand-new pickup truck during a marriage proposal, to the town temptress, who dispenses romantic advice from her bookmobile, Trigiani brings the story alive with her flexible vocal inventions. Fans of true love stories and happy endings certainly won't be disappointed.

This could be another been-reading-all-day-forgot-about-dinner book, so here's a dish you can throw together pretty fast:

Honey Mustard Chicken

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