Daughter of an Italian beauty who somehow wandered into the wrong mountains, Ave Maria is still considered a ‘forner’, despite spending 35 years in Big Stone Gap, driving the volunteer Rescue Squad truck, and directing the annual town play. Charming, stubborn, hot tempered Ave loves theatre in all it’s forms. Especially the drama that can be overheard and observed from above, from her perch in the pharmacy, where she slowly grows into role of the town spinster.
Ave has real friends, wonderful friends. Iva Lou, who drives the bookmobile, gives her the best advise about men, clothes, makeup, and sex. Frieda, her down to earth perpetually retiring 55 year old employee, gives her the local gossip. Theodore, a pretty boy, director of the high school band and fellow forner, gives her verbal comfort, companionship and culture. But Ave has learned most of what she knows from books, specifically, the Chinese Art of Face Reading which helps her decode the illegible faces of the miners and families of miners that populate the Appalachians.
Ave Maria’s persona is so operatic, so heavy with the pathos of each and every mood, so out of proportion to the somber sensibilities of the mountain folk, that it is difficult to imagine her as inside the skin of a couple. Indeed, even in love, and then in marriage, and then in motherhood, Ave Maria sticks out.