Saturday, January 05, 2008

Novel about mountaintop-removal strip mining for coal is about what we see and choose not to see

"I have tried to educate myself about mountaintop removal," Aimee Zaring reports. "I've read articles, gone to public meetings and listened to the heart-rending stories of those struggling in the Appalachian coalfields to protect their land and families from the devastating effects of strip-mining. I've seen scalped mountains in the distance while driving through the hills of Eastern Kentucky, but that's as far as I could see the problem -- from a distance. A horrifying, inconceivable concept. That is, until I read Ann Pancake's fearless and beautiful debut novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been. Not even Pancake's characters can seem to fully absorb the magnitude of what is happening in their small West Virginia town."

In a book review for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Zaring writes, "Though there is an unmistakable agenda here -- Pancake's voice rising out against mountaintop removal, nearly every chapter spotlighting some aspect of strip-mining's destructive effects -- the story never falls into sentimentalism or didacticism. Through the unique, convincing viewpoints of multiple characters, Pancake manages to edify without preaching -- or judging. The coal companies' employees, for example, are just trying to put bread on the table, the coal companies themselves the embodiment of humanity's age-old thirst for power. And we are made to see our own culpability in each character's refusal to see, at one point or other, what they feel helpless to fix. ... Strange As This Weather Has Been is not just a story about Appalachians or mountaintop removal. It is a story about vision -- what we choose to see and not to see." (Read more)

No comments: