” I have heard that when some people murmur through the dark grammar of their lives, they actually believe they understand. ” ~Peter Grandbois Nahoonkara, 32
This book, which takes place in a small American mountain mining town in the 19th century, incorporates elements of historical fiction with experimental fiction, but nothing that pulls the reader out of the fictional dream. The characters, who tell their own stories for the most part, are distinct and complex. The conflict runs throughout, holding the tension high and carries the reader along the tumultuous river of story to a conclusion that made me cry for more.
The best thing about this novel is the author’s skill with language. Every sentence is beautiful; every observation stunning.
Some of my favorites:
“The difference between knowing and doing,” I replied, “is greater than the space between stars. Greater even than the vast distance between one person and another. I believe that’s the truest thing I’ve learned yet in this life.” (91)
“Jess holds the afterbirth before us so we can get a good look, then proceeds to tell us of the tree of life, the blue vein running from the cord up through the center of it, a vein stronger and clearer than any vein of silver ore Henry ever found in the mountain. / It starts with the pulsing cord, and I reach out and take it in my hand, right there at the base, to see if the pulsing life running through it is real. I feel it as I feel my own beating heart, wondering at the force that drives it. It’s then Jess takes my hand in hers and guides my finger as it traces the pulse to its source. I follow the trunk through its infinite branches and I feel the pulses as if they were singing in the branches of my brain.” (48)