Note: This book is reviewed as part of TLC Tours.
This is a saga that begins in 1924 in an impoverished immigrant coal-mining community in West Virginia and continues up to 1973. In each chapter the perspective changes from among the major characters, beginning with Emma when she is 16, and ending with her granddaughter Hannah at age 28.
Throughout the years we don’t get much of a view of the interior lives of these characters except for the recurring sorrow, mourning, and longing for escape that hangs over their bleak lives. The pervasive poverty and oppression of their surroundings wraps the story in a bleak cloud of melancholy.
Worthwhile? The writing shows the kind of skill you often see coming out of writing workshops, but it kept my emotional engagement on the surface. I was more involved in the oppressive setting than the characters themselves.
Overall Quality? This book reads to me like a series of closely connected short stories. That’s because some of the chapters, taking place as they do after gaps of several years, begin with a great deal of repetition. I could see this being the case if these chapters had been serialized in a journal or magazine, and in fact, in an afterword, the author acknowledges this is precisely what happened. But in book form, the repetitive sections should have been edited out.
Evaluation: Recommended mainly for those who have more of an appreciation for grim and somber stories about the immigrant experience.
Published by Hub City Press, 2013