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Storming Heaven
by Denise Giardina
Bill Goodman Hello everybody and welcome back to the bookclub@ket. Our April selection is Storming Heavenby Denise Giardina. And welcome to our bookclub members, Cait McClanahan, Rochelle Riley, Jonathan Allison, and Dava West.

Storming Heaven: A historical novel, a passionate account of the Appalachian people during the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of this century, and what happens when they run into the people of the emerging coal industry in the early part of this century. And Ms. Giardina uses what I think are four very powerful characters to weave her tale. Let's start our discussion there.

Dava: I think "powerful" is almost an understatement. I felt so close to these characters after I finished reading the book. One of the characters I'd like to talk about specifically is the character that started out the very first tale, which was C. J. Marcum. I think he basically sets up the whole storyline for this book, the storyline of the emergence of the coal industry, the encroachment of the industry on people, on their land. He sets up the issue of land and rights of the land, who owns it. What ownership means -- what it is to be kin, I think. I think everybody else -- all the other three characters -- their stories kind of stem from this conflict that he sets up in the very beginning. So I ... I thought he was basically the main storyteller.
Cait: Yeah, and he is in a large part responsible for the education of some of the other characters, too.
Bill Goodman He was a strong ...
Cait: How they become politicized and ...
Bill Goodman ... and an early character wasn't he? And who else?
Rochelle: Well, my favorite character -- and other people who read the book may disagree -- is Rondal.

He is this powerful, amazing man who comes from no power and finds a way to help build unions. And I had no idea ... I think it's a real ignorance in American history ... how strong this battle was [with] coal operators who came in and took people's homes, and took their land, and forced them to work in mines for next to nothing. These people lived dirt poor; and all they had was family. And he was one of those people who came from nothing and said, "Okay, I'm going to make something happen. I'm going to fight for these people."

But, of course, that meant he didn't have time to do anything else. So even though this other character was in love with him, Rondal sort of treated her like dirt. But I understood it; and he was honest about it, you know. He wouldn't marry her ... and so there is a love story in the book as well.

Bill Goodman So we mentioned C. J. Marcum and Rondal Lloyd. Who are we missing?
Cait: Carrie Bishop. She's a really great character. Real strong -- one of the strongest women I've come across in fiction in a long time.
Bill Goodman What do you think made her so strong?
Cait: Well, her family connection; her connection to that place -- her "Homeplace" -- where she was raised. She ... you know ... that was in large part responsible for her how she felt about ...
Bill Goodman She couldn't really get away from that family and the Homeplace. I mean it was ... she was always drawn to go back there, no matter what happened to her.
Cait: Exactly. Yeah.
Rochelle: But there was a great irony, because she was so independent that they thought she would never get married; but she also was so tied to this place that she did keep coming back. And I loved that about her. And I love the idea that she knew that, okay, her life may be by herself but she was going to make it happen. She was kind of depressed about it sometimes; but she always still struggled through. But I think if she had been born in New England she would have been Susan B. Anthony. She was just so strong.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: She is a very strong character, and I guess ... she becomes a nurse, does she not?
Rochelle: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: And she ends up falling in love with Rondal, at a very early stage. And one of the sad aspects of her life is that she spends a lot of her time pining for him. And she ends up marrying Albion Freeman, who's this guy she knew as a child but he becomes a preacher. Hard-shell Baptist, by the way.
Jonathan: And a no-heller. He's a person with very pronounced opinions, religiously speaking; but also very pro-union and ... one of the admirable things about her is the way she becomes very pro-union and very much involved in the union activities and very much part of the strike action. She is very loyal to Albion. But she is also very loyal to Rondal. How convincing did you find it that she decided that she was in love with both of them -- but she was just going to try and live with that, and marry Albion. And she ends up accepting Albion's proposal, remember, because she says, "Well you know I love Rondal but I'm pretty comfortable with you, so I'll marry you."
Dava: I think that happens all the time.
Jonathan: Yeah.
Dava: And I love that she could say that. I mean her sense of honesty. What she was doing was learning to be as honest with herself as Rondal had been with her. He told her that he wasn't going to be tied down with any woman and that he had this mission. And for her to accept that, but still love him, I thought was pretty cool.
Jonathan: I think it was ... it showed a certain complexity in the character.
Dava: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: A richness in her character; but I think it also shows that the passion she felt was mostly for Rondal. And for Albion, it struck me, a love -- certainly a deep and abiding love -- but it didn't seem so passionate. And it was more a question of loyalty: Love as loyalty, rather than love as passion.
Bill Goodman Do you think Albion understood that?
Jonathan: Oh, it's hard to say. I think Albion ...
Bill Goodman He accepted it.
Jonathan: He accepted that. He accepted that really he was just a notch above Rondal in her heart at the beginning; and I don't know what happened later. I mean ...
Bill Goodman Uh-huh.
Jonathan: ... hard to say. What do you think?
Bill Goodman Well, I ...
Jonathan: I think he did accept it.
Bill Goodman I don't know. You know, one of the other interesting questions is: How do you compare Rondal and Albion?
Jonathan: Yeah.
Bill Goodman And the way they both -- in their own ways -- were very strong characters. Now, somebody might immediately think that Rondal was much more forthright; but Albion, too, made his own way and was a great believer in the passion that he held for God, and the teaching of the Bible, and all of that. Yet he certainly found a passion for the union activity, and some of the things that they -- coal landowners and the owners -- were trying to do.
Dava: I think Albion was strongly rooted in his religion, and he knew himself very well. His relationship with Carrie ... he was more out to be Carrie's companion. Just to seek affection from her more than passion, I believe. He knew that Carrie was in love with Rondal and he even stated he really did not care; he just wanted to have a place with her, to be able to stand by such a strong woman and to have her help him throughout his quest to be a preacher and throughout his quest to become a part of this strong movement towards unionization. Also, I think it's very beautiful how he views his own connection to the land -- how he sees the coal mine as his church.
Rochelle: His mission.
Several people: His mission.
Dava: Where he can seek men into his cause. And I just think he is a very strong character because of his moral and spiritual stability.
Rochelle: I think he knew the hierarchy in his life. His first love was God; so what he got from her was fine, as a matter of fact. I'm glad you said that a minute ago, because there was one point where she had lost her virginity to Rondal and said, "Well, there is a part of me you'll never have." And he said, "Well that's fine, as long as I can have another part." And how many men do you know who will, you know, accept that or think that's okay? That means he really loved her.
Cait: Right.
Jonathan: He was very unselfish in his love for her.
Dava: Very.
Jonathan: I think also -- in terms of his role in the mining union the UMW -- he gave a kind of moral passion to the people. He really ... he helped keep up their spirits. He preached to them -- he gave sermons which made them feel God was on their side, and so on -- in a situation which was very difficult, because there were camping out at night in tents in that coal camp, when they were actually ... when they were evicted from their homes, and so on.
Dava: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: And it was a time when weaker hearts could have easily given up; but the solidarity of the miners together, I think, was kept going somewhat by Albion and his ...
Dava: That's true.
Jonathan: ... his commitment.
Dava: I think he was the reason the movement succeeded. Well, succeeded up to a point.
Cait: Well I thought the religious aspect of the book was interesting -- that Albion Freeman basically said that the righteous will rise up and inherit the Earth, and contrasting that with the ... the coal operators and that sort of church-as-a-corporate-structure, you know, these coal operators as these sort of self-appointed gods on Earth. Several people: Uh-huh.
Cait: You know, and Albion as a contrast to that. It was very interesting.
Bill Goodman Well, there are four voices in the novel. We have mentioned three of them. Certainly Albion is not one of them. I think he is a central figure, but he's not one of her voices. But the Italian immigrant, Rosa Angelelli, I think, is the way you'd pronounce her name. Somebody tell me about her, and how you were struck with her part in this novel.
Dava: Well Rosa was an immigrant from ... Sicily, wasn't it?
Jonathan: Yeah.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Dava: And I think she was the immigrant voice. The sort of hopeless, just totally overwhelmed, person who's come to this new land. Not only is it new land, but it's a coal mining town. It's a place where, basically, you aren't living the American Way, the way of freedom at your own discretion. She was just thrown into this new world, and overcome. You meet her and it's just the things she says are so sad. She ...
Bill Goodman Stranger in a strange land.
Dava: Yeah.
Bill Goodman Why do you think Ms. Giardina used this particular voice? I wouldn't call her ... I said four "powerful" voices, but I'm not sure you would agree that she was a powerful character in this novel; and, at times, I sort of wonder why the author would would use her. Does anybody have an opinion on that?
Jonathan: Well I think ... Sorry, Cait.
Cait: Oh, go ahead. [laughs]
Jonathan: I will speak and then you speak.
Cait: Okay.
Jonathan: I think that Denise Giardina ... uh, I don't know about her background; but Giardina is an Italian name.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: Perhaps it's speaking to her own background. I know that she grew up in a coal camp in West Virginia, herself, according to the back of the book. And so I think it's important -- she feels it is important -- to reflect the way in which many immigrants came to these coal camps and worked at the beginning of the century. There were many Italians there who didn't speak English very well and who got caught up in this terrible debacle, which was this struggle between the coal miners and the bosses. But I think that she is a rather pathetic figure in some ways.
Bill Goodman Uh-huh.
Jonathan: But she's a strong figure. She is a person who speaks for herself; so she is on the stage, as it were. She is one of the players; she is one of the people who speaks for herself. One of the four who speak from one those monologue voices that we hear. But at times it was almost incoherent, because her English is deliberately broken. I mean, she sounds like an Italian-person-who-doesn't-speak-much-English, speaking English. And she gets her message across; but, sometimes, and as the novel progresses, her mind cracks. She becomes more and more insane. And so the the voice becomes more incoherent, and I sense that incoherence and that cracking of her sanity becomes almost symbolic of what happens to a lot of the people and a lot of the community.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Bill Goodman Well, it certainly was; because I think ... don't you agree, the tragedy that they went through. She lost four sons? Everyone: Four sons.
Cait: And she was being manipulated by this coal operator. She is the one character actually having a direct relationship with one of the coal operators. And I mean -- from what I read into it -- that she was being raped by him.
Jonathan: Yes.
Cait: And ...
Bill Goodman That's not said in the novel, but I think that's certainly understated in a way that I picked up on that, also.
Cait: ... and it's not ... it was implied, yeah. So this is another form of them exercising absolute control over these people and she....
Dava: Well I feel so insensitive because, let me tell you, I didn't feel a lot of sympathy for her; and it was only because of the way the character was drawn. I think it was the one thing that made the book less than perfect for me, because there were so many other voices that I think if there were only going to be four there was somebody else who should have had that spot. There were lots of people that were drawn to those mines for different reasons, and the way that the author deals with black people, for example, is very real, very true-to-life but also very offensive because that's the way life was then. And I would have loved to have seen her do more with Toussaint Booker.
Cait: Toussaint, yeah. Great character.
Dava: But I think Jonathan is right: Maybe there is something more to dealing with immigrants from Europe, as opposed to immigrants from the South who came to the mines. Because it does give you a truer sense of who was there; but I got a better sense of these different people and where they came from with the baseball games.
Cait: Right. I was going to bring that up next, too. That's a great scene.
Bill Goodman It's a wonderful section.
Rochelle: When the coal operators started their baseball teams, and then they had this independent team ... and it was like the coal miners vs. the coal operators. And you find yourself just rooting -- I mean, I sat bolt upright reading this page. It's almost like a good movie, page after page, trying to get to who's going to win the game and what's going to happen; and when Rondal's brother ... uh, well, I hate ... it's like, you almost want -- like The Crying Game, you don't want to tell them what's going to happen -- but, when you get to this baseball game ...
Bill Goodman I think we have to.
Rochelle: It's make or break: The coal miners are going to win, or the coal operators are going to win. And there is the ball -- they get this ringer to come from one of the, you know, professional leagues to hit this ball -- and he is hitting this home run, and it's going to go over the fence, and all of a sudden ... Rondal (who would've, you know, either caught it or missed it) is feeling like rawhide. And what happened to the ball? His brother shot the ball, you know, in midair. And he goes: "What a great shot."

You know, he was often on a drunk, because of the problems with the family. But that was, like, this moment. It could not have been better, because I was waiting to see if he'd catch it but, you know, she took it a step higher and, "Let's just end it." And then everybody goes into fights and brawls; and I thought, "This is just a great scene!" This is when I saw movie. It was right after the baseball I said, "Okay, this is a movie."

Cait: Yeah, this is one of the better-written passages in this book, I think. It was very lively. But I thought it was a great way of showing ... how these people, you know, in this one aspect of their lives where they might have some control over their lives -- they bring in ... they fix the game.
Rochelle: Yeah.
Cait: And they, you know ... they are constantly just defeating them. But they they rise up, and in the end, well ...
Jonathan: Well ... remember, remember: ...
Cait: They prevail any way.
Jonathan: ... Talcott shoots his firearm, at the end of it, and gets arrested.
Cait: Right. Yeah, well they throw him in jail. So there is still no ...
Rochelle: So, see? He loses out. It seems that no matter what you do they steal every victory.
Cait: Exactly.
Jonathan: Now the interesting thing about the baseball player coming in: He's a professional from Philadelphia; he's called O'Malley.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: Obviously an Irish player from Philadelphia. But it was one more example of the coal owners bringing people in.
Cait: Right.
Rochelle: Uh huh.
Jonathan: I think the novel pretty much revolves around the idea of insiders and outsiders. And there are lots of references to "up in Boston" and Miles ... maybe we should get to Miles. Miles, the brother of Carrie, is somebody who in a sense ... He grows up in West Virginia, and yet he goes to college, and -- actually, he goes ... does he go to Berea College?
Cait: He goes to Berea.
Bill Goodman He does go to Berea. Yeah.
Jonathan: That's right, and so ...
Rochelle: Which is a big deal.
Bill Goodman Oh sure.
Jonathan: But when he graduates he actually works for the coal bosses; and after that point he becomes like in-between. He's no longer one of ... you know, it's like "us" and "them" and he ceases to become totally one of "us" he becomes one of "them." And...
Rochelle: Except he didn't really; he had to straddle that line, because of what Dava was saying about kin, you know: When you are in Eastern Kentucky, and kin, it is impossible to let that go. So there were still times that he could have gotten killed, or lost his job, where he helped his sister, Carrie.
Jonathan: No, I would uh ...
Rochelle: He was so strong.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: I would agree with you up to a point.
Rochelle: Yeah.
Jonathan: Because I think that he sticks up for her at the end when they are carrying Rondal -- who's wounded -- on the train; but, at earlier points, it's quite clear that Miles will not do things for the miners against the bosses. Its quite clear that he's in the bosses' pocket.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: For instance when she said, "There is typhoid in the camp. It's due to the fact that the water we drink is beside the privies. It's obviously poisoning it. Please tell the coal owners in Boston to see to this." And and he gives a very half-hearted effort ... he makes a very half-hearted effort.
Rochelle: I understand. But he still went up, because it was his sister. I mean, he could have told her, "No, you just can't get anything done." But he'd go, and they'd tell him no; and he'd go back because he was being defeated.
Jonathan: Yeah, but I don't think we disagree I think he is in-between.
Rochelle: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
Jonathan: He's in-between
Rochelle: That's what I think.
Jonathan: You know. And so ... go ahead, Dava.
Dava: But he also demonstrates how kin is the only thing that's constant within this story. He could go off to his job with the big coal owners and the bosses, but they have no love for him. They aren't going to look out for him in the end. They just give him a job. He's there to work for them; he's a tool. He's their tool.
Bill Goodman But I didn't see him as a weak character, though. Did you?
Cait: Oh, I did.
Rochelle: He was weak, but he wasn't totally weak.
Cait: I mean he was responsible for his own father dying.
Bill Goodman But I thought he was a victim of the circumstances -- that he was ... he chose to go to school, and to become educated. And, obviously, he had a choice to take this job or not ...
Cait: Right.
Bill Goodman I don't think that made him weak.
Dava: But he wasn't without conscience. I mean he was weak, but cared.
Cait: Exactly, yeah.
Dava: He knew he was weak; and he tried to figure out a way to make it better. But none of his ways involved him losing the status that he had gained, which was so important because he left poverty and got to a point where he could wear ties, and wear hats, and go to Boston and have big dinners ... and marry some society babe who would come back and do sort of incidental things for people.
Bill Goodman So we have these four voices, and other strong characters that we have mentioned -- like Miles and Albion -- and we really follow them throughout. And that is sort of leading up to the conclusion that we all know so well ... and we hope our book club members will follow along, and read this, and enjoy it as much as we did.

But let's talk a little bit about that: the finality of it all, and the conflict with the union and the owners, and all of that. And, certainly, the battle that then took place. Again, I thought it was a terrifically well-written passage, in a tragic way; but, like the ballgame, it's certainly opposite in emotion, and that sort of thing. What about all of that? Were you as engrossed in that? I mean, how could you not be?

Dava: Well ... actually ...
Cait: To tell you the truth ...
[Everyone laughs]
Dava: ... I wasn't.
[Everyone laughs]
Cait: I wasn't either. It kind of ...
Rochelle: You know, as it got to the end, and you know what's ... it almost moved from this lyrical, historical, romantic, loving, uh, historical tale to ... to this war thing. Because you know what's coming -- when everybody finally realizes "We can to better than this." And they rise up, and the coal operators send in gun thugs (as they call them) and there are battles, and then the army comes in, and there is lots of massacre and bloodshed it ... it started to change for me. I wasn't as interested in that. I started to read it more quickly, like, "Okay, nobody died on that page. Let me keep going." You know, I didn't like that part as much.
Jonathan: Well that's interesting. I think that the novel tries to be several things. I think, on one level, it's a political novel; and Denise Giardina very clearly wears her politics on her sleeve. This is a novel which will tell the true story of the UMW in 1920-21; this will tell the story of the suffering of the miners. This will describe their everyday life in detail: the way they talk, because much of it is written in the vernacular; they way they eat, what they eat; the way they love, the way they can't love, in Rondal's case. And so, to that extent, it's very successful. And I really think, since many of our viewers may be young people, it's a marvelous novel to learn something about social history in Kentucky.
Bill Goodman Certainly.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Rochelle: Absolutely.
Jonathan: In Kentucky, it's really great; but for people to read who want to know something about the history of Kentucky and the history of the mining unions. On the other hand, it's trying to be a thriller. That is to say, you know, you don't really know ... what's going to happen to Rondal, when he goes to Colorado. You don't really know what's going to happen when he forms the union in the first place. The first part ends with that. And each part ends with a crucial moment -- you don't really know what's going to happen next. And I think the thrilling, the thrilling-ness, of it (as you're suggesting) goes away, in the end.
Cait: Right.
Jonathan: You sort of don't feel it's a thriller any more.
Cait: It fell flat.
Jonathan: It seems too predetermined.
Cait: Yeah.
Jonathan: And the third thing it tries to be is a romance. And I think the romance angle is kind of interesting, because it's ... it's a romance which is about failed romance... about make-do romance. You know.

[Everyone laughs.]

Bill Goodman Well, I tell you what: I'm going to be -- unless Dava joins me on this -- I'm going to be the lone person on the panel. It didn't fall flat, at that time. I thought it built to such a crescendo that it held me; and I think, again, it's her writing style and the language that she used to paint this picture -- of the gun thugs, and being on the side of the mountain, and of the shots being fired -- and didn't you feel, and believe, when they were in the tents, starving, cold, during the winter? I mean I saw that so clearly, and I wasn't disappointed.
Rochelle: Now, wait: I don't disagree with you on those things. I loved the parts in the early going when it was still skirmishes, and there were ... it was almost like little kamikaze missions back and forth, where they'd get some digs and the coal miners would get some digs. I'm only talking about the very end, where it went to full-scale battle.
Cait: Uh-huh.
Rochelle: But the points where Rondal got shot the very first time or when they were turned out of their homes because they tried to shut down mines ... like, the miners didn't go to work, they'd immediately kick them out of their homes; bring people in from some place else, and put them in those same houses; and they had to live in tents, or move someplace else, like refugees. It was ... it was horrible, and that was moving. So, that part, I agree with you.
Bill Goodman And you wanted to mention, too ... Two quick questions: As a journalist, there is another side of that story, that we didn't see, number one ...
Rochelle: Two quick things.
Bill Goodman Number two, how much you are learning about some of these Kentucky authors.
Rochelle: As a journalist, you always look to see where the balance is. And there was absolutely none, because you don't get a sense of the coal operators and the capitalism and the sense of being American rich men that drove them to do these things. You don't know whether they have any redeeming qualities. I don't care, because I hated them; but you sort of miss that. So there wasn't really balance. But it's not that kind of ... it's not a news story, you know. But the success of a novel that reads like a history book is that you immediately want to go and find out how much was true. I was so drawn to these characters, and to these people, and I don't know a Kentucky history book that has this stuff from the turn of the century through the 1920s, about the coal miners, and the war, and how much of this really happened.
Bill Goodman Well, we are researching some of that. An excellent place to go, if I can suggest it to everyone, is to go to our website our book club website, where ...
Cait: Yea.
Bill Goodman ... we will not only have some of that information, about the historical events that did take place, but also about our discussion we'll have toward the end of the month -- the date and the time and all of that will be on our website -- when our book club members can ask Denise ...
Rochelle: I'll be there.
Cait: Yeah.
Bill Goodman ... some of these questions. So be there, and I think that will be interesting. And also ... Yes, please.
Jonathan: I had the feeling sometimes in the book that I was longing for another voice. I was longing for another speaker, perhaps; you mentioned ... maybe it could have been an African- ...
Rochelle: We wanted Doc Booker.
Cait: Yeah.
Jonathan: ... -American character.
Cait: Yeah.
Jonathan: Could have been a speaker.
Rochelle: Uh-huh.
Jonathan: On the other hand, I also sometimes longed for an omniscient narrator -- that is, a narrator who stands back like, for instance, in the Wendell Berry novel [ The Memory of Old Jack] that we read and discussed -- somebody who stands back and is able to describe everything that is happening. Gives you the big picture and is able to make philosophical generalizations about life and about ... about, you know, mine ownership, and union membership, etc.
Bill Goodman Would you have wanted it in this Eastern Kentucky, uh, West Virginia accent, and dialog?
Jonathan: It wouldn't matter; either way would be fine. It seems to me that, at times, for me, it got a bit tedious listening to these four voices. I sometimes wanted something a little richer, a little more lyrical, and something which was a little bit distant from the events. Because it seems to me that a lot of the characters ... the thing the characters have to do is tell the story. They are telling this story, and the more time you spend telling the story, the less time there is for reflection. And I think I was looking for a more reflective narrator. To that extent I think it's an excellent social history, excellent historical novel; but as as a novel I think it's missing something for me.
Rochelle: Well this is one of the times we will totally disagree.
Jonathan: Okay.
Rochelle: Because when ... The last time, when we did, uh ...
Bill Goodman Mae Street Kidd.
Rochelle: ... Mae Street Kidd. Wade Hall has taught me to appreciate oral history, and to hear voices; and you can't get much richer than these characters talking about themselves and what happened in the first person. I don't want to read sort of, you know, a history -- with somebody saying these things happened, and these things happened, and Carrie went here. I want Carrie to tell me. I want ... I want the characters to say it. And the very first paragraph, as soon as I opened this book, I knew I was going to love it:

There is many a way to mark a baby while it is still yet in the womb. A fright to its mother will render it nervous and fretful after it is birthed. If a copperhead strikes, a fiery red snake will be stamped on the baby's face or back.
... And ...
Hit [and they say "hit" for "it"] was fast for a first youngun, and the granny woman was too late. Clabe werent back from fetchin her down from Raven. Werent nary a soul to help birth him but me.
I heard that person. I could feel that person. I wouldn't have changed that at all. I might have added another voice, but not an omniscient one; not somebody who wasn't telling me their own story.
Cait: So, were you surprised at the end to find out that it was her son who had told this story?
Rochelle: I was so surprised.
Cait: The stories of all these people.
Rochelle: It was like The Bridges of Madison Countywhere, you know, they go back and put the letters together. And I love that. That was him, and that made it even more real. Like, here is the son telling his mom's story from these things.
Bill Goodman Did you like the technique? The afterward?
Cait: I did. I thought it was a good way of explaining about Dillon. Because they named him Dillon -- after an uncle who he really was suspicious of, and his mother was suspicious of, and didn't love and didn't appreciate in the beginning of the novel -- and he ended up, because this uncle was a kind of wild man who lived the old ways off in the woods.
Jonathan: Total maverick.
Cait: Yeah.
Rochelle: Well, we are blessed to have met all of these characters in these books that we've had a chance to read. I've learned so much about Kentucky history from this one; and from the Mae Street Kidd book, Passing Blackand from The Secrets of a Fire King. I'm glad to be in Kentucky, and to know some of this now. I feel like I'm just learning about my state.
Bill Goodman I think we all do that, and it's so early in the year. We have so much to go. So much reading to do.
Cait: Yeah, this was really educational.
Dava: I think this book did so much to help me learn about my own area. My own home town, Inez, was mentioned several times in here. That's part of the appeal of this book to me, because it was quite the cathartic experience to see the motions all these people went through; and I felt purged at the end. But what's haunting about it is that this actually happened in the very hills where I live, and it's something I've never heard about.
Rochelle: You dad is a coal miner. I want to talk to him now.
Dava: Right.
Rochelle: I want to know whether this is really like the way it was.
Bill Goodman Bring him to the book club.
[Everyone laughs]
Bill Goodman I don't remember studying this in Kentucky history, Dava. Did you?
Dava: No.
Bill Goodman Of course, I don't remember a lot of things that I studied. [Laughter]
Cait: I certainly don't remember, either.
Rochelle: Don't you ask me.
Bill Goodman It wasn't there.
Cait: It wasn't.
Jonathan: It's a little bit like the wonderful movie ...
Rochelle: Yeah.
Jonathan: ... you have seen that which recapitulates a whole episode in our history which is so often forgotten.
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