by Ann Pancake
One of Kirkus Reviews' Top Ten Fiction Books of 2007, this debut novel offers a harrowing look at a working-class family's struggle to survive their community's destruction by mountaintop removal mining.
Set in present day West Virginia, Ann Pancakeâ€™s debut novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been, tells the story of a coal mining familyâ€”a couple and their four childrenâ€”living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters.
Strange As This Weather Has Been follows several members of the family, with a particular focus on fifteen-year-old Bant and her mother, Lace. Working at a â€œscabâ€ motel, Bant becomes involved with a young miner while her mother contemplates joining the fight against the mining companies. As domestic conflicts escalate at home, the children are pushed more and more outside among junk from the floods and felled trees in the hollowsâ€”the only nature they have ever known. But Bant has other memories and is as curious and strong-willed as her mother, and ultimately comes to discover the very real threat of destruction that looms as much in the landscape as it does at home.
"[Pancake]'s horrors are Biblical, her compassion towering." -New York Times Book Review
"Filled with wisdom and fire and grace." -Chicago Tribune
"Ann Pancake is Appalachia's Steinbeck." -Jayne Anne Phillips