Strange as This Weather Has Been

Strange as This Weather Has Been

A Novel

Book - 2007
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Set in present day West Virginia, Ann Pancake's debut novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been , tells the story of a coal mining family--a couple and their four children--living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters.

Strange As This Weather Has Been follows several members of the family, with a particular focus on fifteen-year-old Bant and her mother, Lace. Working at a "scab" motel, Bant becomes involved with a young miner while her mother contemplates joining the fight against the mining companies. As domestic conflicts escalate at home, the children are pushed more and more outside among junk from the floods and felled trees in the hollows--the only nature they have ever known. But Bant has other memories and is as curious and strong-willed as her mother, and ultimately comes to discover the very real threat of destruction that looms as much in the landscape as it does at home.
Publisher: Berkley, CA : Counterpoint : Distributed by Publishers Group West, c2007
ISBN: 9781593761660
Branch Call Number: Fiction
Characteristics: 360 p. ; 23 cm


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Jul 04, 2011

I can't resist remarking on the previous review's use of the word "tone deaf." I find that term irresponsible considering that most people outside of West Virginia have no idea how "hill people" sound. Within West Virginia people are grateful that someone is finally representing their language and context accurately for once (I've witnessed this at readings there). When I first read this beautiful book I was surprised at the dialect because it sounded unfamiliar--I thought I already knew everything because I'd gone to movies and heard cheap accents on TV. So deeply ingrained are these fake accents that it took me awhile to give up this preconception of what Appalachians sound like (which is diverse as any complex culture). After only a few pages I found myself submersed in the language, imagery, the stunning blend of made-up words, poetic phrasing, and gut-wrenching description of a land and people rarely heard from. This kind of literature is on the wane in the current climate of "twittering," where saying it simple and dumb holds more importance than evoking place, people, or culture. Anyone who's read Faulkner will welcome anything written by Pancake--her work honors his, carries it on, and takes "real writing" to a new level.


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