Published on January 12th, 2015 | by TLV News0
January 15 – Christopher Scotton signs “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” at Off Square Books
review by Loren Bost
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth begins with fourteen-year-old Kevin, our narrator, and his mother, Annie, traveling from Indiana to Medgar, a small coal mining town in Kentucky. Having recently witnessed the tragic death of his younger brother, Josh, the two hope time away from Indiana and with Annie’s father, Pops, will help restore Annie’s mental state.
In Medgar, Kevin learns the ins and outs of small town Appalachian life. After spending time in the mountains with Pops and a hillbilly boy named Buzzy, Kevin inherits a love of the land and the place his family has long called home. Medgar’s inhabitants’ families’ have lived in different hollows throughout the county for generations, each with their own little portion of paradise.
Now that the deep coal mines have been sufficiently pillaged, “the company,” a local mining business, plans to continue taking the coal out of the mountains in the only way left, Mountain Top Removal. Peak by peak the company’s owner, Bubba Boyd, is blowing up the mountain tops wreaking environmental havoc on all the hollows in the area.
By purchasing the mountains and hollows one by one from the family clans, Boyd is quickly changing the quality of life for the people around him and altering their landscape forever. The town is divided over whether people should sell so the company can continue to employ miners, or stick together and stand up to the company. After Buzzy witnesses a horrific hate crime, the division between the two sides becomes dangerous.
By creating each character and clan fully, even adding in family histories, Christopher Scotton effectively creates a small world akin to many small towns. The inward-looking views of the characters gives the reader the feel of small town life. His descriptions of the breathtaking Kentucky mountains, woods and hollows is beautifully done, allowing the reader to easily visualize the lush landscape. However, the greatest gift Sutton shares is the ability to convey the feelings people have of connection to the land that has been in their families for generations.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #220 (published January 8, 2015).
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