River of Earth
by James Still
From the 1978 paperback edition (University Press of Kentucky):
First published in 1940 and now reprinted with a perceptive foreword by Dean Cadle, James Stills novel River of Earth has become one of the classics of Appalachian literature.
It is the story, seen through the eyes of a small boy, of three years in the life of his family and their kin. He sees his parents pulled between the meager farm with its sense of independence and the mining camp with its uncertain promise of material prosperity. In his world privation, violence, and death are part of everyday life, accepted and endured. Yet, withal, it is a world of dignity, love, and humor, of natural beauty, which Still evokes in sharp, poetic images. No writer has caught more effectively the vividness of mountain speech or shown more honestly the trials and joys of mountain life.
River of Earth is ... a fresh, strong voice in American fiction. It is too a beautiful and exciting book.
James Still tells of [his peoples] japes and sorrows and near starvation, the rich archaic poetry of their talk and customs, in a clear, dry style as unsentimental as his seven-year-olds eyes.... he has produced a work of art.