Linda Sullivan selects haunting Appalachian novels

Susan EspirituOur Town Readers

Our book whisperer, Linda Sullivan, brings us back into fiction this week but choosing these reads will delve into the reality of our history that is far from fiction.

Linda’s first recommendation is Shiner by Amy Jo Burns which was Burns’ first novel and a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, NPR Best Book of the year, a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection, and “told in language as incandescent as smoldering coal,” according to The New York Times.

Linda’s teaser for Shiner:
“You know those books that won’t let you go? The ones you continue to think about weeks, months and even years after turning the last page? This is one of those.
Rural West Virginia
Coming of age
Snake handling father/preacher
That’s all I’m sharing. Read it!” My recommendation is to be listen to the spellbinding audio version.

The second recommendation is Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.

This author is as fascinating and captivating as any of her books.

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Kingsolver has lived in England, France and the Canary Islands. She has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico and South America, with her longest tenure of two decades in Tucson, Arizona.

Since June 2004, Barbara, husband Steven, and two daughters have lived on a farm in southern Appalachia, where they raise an extensive vegetable garden and Icelandic sheep. Barbara believes her best work is accomplished through writing and being an active citizen of her own community.

Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. In 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts and was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work. Kingsolver Bibliography.

For Demon Copperhead, winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Linda says:

“Y’all, I cried. Many times and actually sobbed when I read the last paragraph. The man sitting across the airplane aisle probably thought I was a crazy person.

“I know these characters. If you grew up in upper East TN or Southwest VA, then most likely, you do, too. The setting, Lee County, Virginia, is a real place to me. The backbreaking work to raise tobacco plus the poisoning … that’s NO joke, friends. The slow slide into addiction of the characters broke my heart. Made me angry, too! So angry. I bet you know these people, too.

“Demon Copperhead is not an easy book to read, but the story is worth the time and the effort. I promise. We need more of these stories. Barbara Kingsolver is amazing. Truly! I could hear the voices of Demon, Mr. & Mrs. Peg, June, & many more. The accents, the phrasing…it sounds like home.”

She continues, “Some things made me smile & reminisce. Shoutout to the old Food Country, USA in Blountville!”

Thank you, Linda! I just finished another of the earlier recommendations, The Last Flight. Never a disappointment.

Remember: Knox County Online Library to search for Linda’s recommendations each week.

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