Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Milk Glass Moon is the final book in the Big Stone Gap trilogy. Does it stand on its own as an individual novel? Which themes from Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler carry over into Milk Glass Moon?
2. What does the symbol of the milk glass moon signify? Also, through Etta’s interest in astrology, Trigiani presents stars as prominent reoccurring images. What significance do the stars have in the novel?
3. Why does Ave Maria experiences so much friction with Etta, when they have had such a good relationship in the past? Do you think their problems arise from normal adolescence angst, or do they stem from deeper issues? How do you think Ave Maria and Etta’s relationship would be if Ave Maria’s own mother were still alive?
4. Is Ave Maria too hard on Etta for her mistakes, in particular the coal and drinking incidents? Do you think she overreacts, given the fact that she had very different perceptions from the other characters, or is she justified in her decisions? How do you think Ave Maria’s actions would appear to the reader if she were portrayed in third person, without the inner dialogue we are privy to?
5. Ave Maria and Jack’s display apparent differences in their reactions and outlooks throughout Milk Glass Moon, especially in the area of parenting. How do you think they have sustained their marriage? What sacrifices have they made for each other? Why does their marriage work?
6. When Ave Maria sees Pete in New York City, old feelings stir within her. Why does Trigiani bring Pete back into the picture? What do you think would have happened if Ave Maria had chosen Pete over Jack? How would their marriage be different? Do you think Ave Maria’s physical reactions to Pete are problematic?
7. Ave Maria describes Pete as being the only person who can see the girl in her. What does she mean? Which qualities in particular does Pete pull out of her? Would you pick comfort over excitement, like Ave Maria ultimately does, or vice-versa?
8. Ave Maria believes that it’s easier for women to have close relationships and intimate friendships than men. Do you agree with her? Given the history between Ave Maria and Pete, what do you think about Pete and Jack’s friendship?
9. Ave Maria is presented with choices throughout the course of Milk Glass Moon; she is tugged between locations, men, and time frames. How do you think she goes about making decisions? If you were her, would you have made the same choices?
10. Ave Maria sometimes seems to be torn between her desire to live in a small town and her wish to explore the allure and excitement of places like New York City and Italy. Throughout the novel, Ave Maria explores the downsides as well as the upsides of living in a small town, and in certain moments, it appears that Ave Maria hasn’t quite gotten over the difficulties she long ago experienced in her transition to a small town. Where do you think she ultimately belongs and feels most comfortable? Do you think she and Jack would be happy living in Italy, as their plan at the end of the novel suggests? What kind of environment are you most comfortable in, and why?
11. Does Ave Maria’s personality change when she’s in a location other than Big Stone Gap? Which hidden qualities we don’t usually see in her persona emerge?
12. Etta tells her mother that she knew she was meant to marry Stefano when she was eight years old. How do issues of fate and destiny play out in Milk Glass Moon? In general, do you think every event has a reason for happening?
13. According to Etta, Ave has trouble getting attached to people. Do you think her statement is true? What are some examples that either support or disagree with it?
14. Three different kinds of marriages are explored throughout the novel … those of Ave Maria and Jack, Iva Lou and Louis, and Etta and Stefano. How do they compare?
15. Throughout the course of three books, Ave clearly progresses through various encounters she never planned on facing. How do you think she has changed from the beginning of the trilogy? Which kind of strengths has she gained? Which personality traits has she held onto?
16. Does Trigiani wrap up everything neatly, or does she leave room for any future developments in Big Stone Gap world? Is there anything from these characters that you would like to see more of? Do the themes and characters’ situations in Milk Glass Moon come full circle or is anything left unresolved?