Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hollow Ground-Natalie S. Harnett

Hollow Ground-Natalie S. Harnett
the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 336
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
Set in the 1960s during the beginnings of the infamous underground coal fires of Central Pennsylvania, the Howleys struggle with their personal demons, the government, poverty, and a family 'curse'.
One of my favorite moments in my undergraduate science classes was our trip to Centralia. We stood there in the midst of overgrown streets (my archaeologist training meant I could see the town plan clear as day) and loosened our winter coats due to the heat rising from our feet and breathed in shallowly the pervading stink of coal fire watching smoke rise from fissures in the ground. Our professor lectured about coal seams, acidic levels, and mining waste and I stood there thinking about the people who had lived there. This was, then, the perfect book for me. Harnett draws a charming character with her narrator, Brigid. Brigid yanks at your heartstrings as she struggles to grow up fast and understand her dysfunctional family. There is a perverse pride within the family about their misfortune even as it wrecks their lives. Working class issues clash with this family's particular secrets amidst the failure of the government. The novel has its flaws with some plotholes that seem to be there only to irk but at its heart, it is a sincere story.

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