Looming over this all is a sort of dam of Damocles. The local dam is fractured, and plans to strip mine the area could flood local homes, a horrific eventuality that, in the novel’s present, Aleena discovers soon came to pass. The outline of Reddy’s story is simple, but its scenes are alive with telling detail—Kettlebottom, bug dust, and tipples—and engaging everyday conversation that brings to life a place, a time, and its people without sacrificing narrative momentum. The romance is subdued but finds Sara drawing fascinating contrasts between Frank, a New Yorker, and the men from her world, whom Reddy develops with verve and sensitivity.
Scenes set in the present move swiftly, and Reddy deftly builds suspense from what Aleena discovers about the flood, but readers likely will find themselves racing through Aleena’s chapters to get back to Frank, Sara, and the urgent feeling of living with the possibility of disaster. “Always kiss a miner goodbye,” several characters say, a burst of heartbreaking, hard-won wisdom that exemplifies this story of love and loss.
Takeaway: Powerful novel of love, loss, and legacy in Appalachian coal country.
Comparable Titles: Ann Pancake’s Strange as This Weather Has Been, Silas House.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A