One of America’s greatest and most prolific modern day authors, Kingsolver brings to us another masterpiece. I loved her work in Unsheltered and in Flight Behavior, but my all-time favorite is The Poisonwood Bible. Even at 20 years old it’s still very readable and if you haven’t read it you should. But her latest work is really remarkable…here is my book review Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.
I’m actually struggling a bit to write this review. This book was disturbing in many ways…for it’s gritty and real portrayal of drug addiction in the United States…specifically in the mountains of southern Appalachia.
Apparently Kingsolver used David Copperfield as inspiration of this novel…but it wasn’t something that came through strongly for me as a reader. What did come through though is Kingsolver’s incredible talent for descriptive narrative, palpable and often painful. There was one passage in this book that I had to set the book down and take a minute it was so real and alarming to read.
But don’t let me scare you away…because this is a must read. It’s deep, factual and substantive.
Damon is our narrator, only eleven when we meet him, dealing with a single mother who is addicted. Damon has faced things in his short life most of us will never deal with; addiction, starvation, neglect, abuse and violence. There are very few stable adults in his life…not even the Department of Social Services representative cares about him.
As Damon bounces around several unsavory, neglectful and dilapidated foster care homes, he dreams of being an artist. A dream so far beyond his reach he can’t even imagine getting there. Penny less, homeless, motherless – Damon encounters a variety of distrustful characters and only has a tiny handful of friends.
When he finally finds his Grandmother she will get him set up in a foster care home that seems stable on the outside. This is when Damon will become a football star, loose it all when injured, get addicted to opioid painkillers, fall in love with an addict and spiral totally out of control.
A Cry for Help
How can so many horrible things happen to one child? It’s a eye-opening testament to our underfunded welfare, child and social services system not to mention the deep prejudice and misunderstanding of the rural region of southern Appalachia. But don’t fret. Damon “Demon” will get his shit together and you will be astonished at how this book unfolds. A new American Masterpiece with a message we all need to hear. Thank you for reading my book review Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.
As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from August to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 69 books, (11 fewer than last year) and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.
Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 69 books. Fifty of the 69 were read on my kindle, four were traditional books, while 15 were audible books we listened to on road trips or in the car while home in the USA. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.
So as in the past several years (see our year in review from 2022 and 2021) I’m sharing my most favorites in a Top Fifteen list, and a few honorable mentions too. Some outstanding novels, biographies, historical non-fiction, as well as Booker and Pulitzer winners. Other than the number one slot here, the books are in no particular order.
My Top Fifteen
Here are my favorites from July 2022 to July 2023;
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese One of the best books I have read in several years, Verghese is a brilliant man and writer and I will read anything he writes in the future. My favorite book hands down of this past year. Go Read This Book!
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – powerful yet sentimental this story of a brilliant woman scientist in the “women stay home” 1950’s will make you life, cry and jump for joy. Soon to be a movie too I hear.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell – O’Farrell has a magnificent talent to weave real historical characters into fictional historical novels so perfectly you will wonder if the story is biographical. A beautiful read.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanaghihara I believe in my book review of this book I used the phrase mind-boggling. Indeed it was. A spectacular achievement in fiction, difficult to explain, sometimes confounding, absolutely worth the effort. I loved it.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver – winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2023, this fantastic story of drug abuse, poverty and abandonment in Appalachian USA is deep and sometimes difficult to read. But read it anyway.
The Whalebone Theater by Joanna Quinn – set in England before and then during WWII, the changes in Quinn’s astonishing cast of characters through the book and the war will keep you turning every page. A deep story of the meaning of family.
Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris – I had never heard the historical fact that the killers of King Charles I in England escaped to New England. This part is true. What Harris does so eloquently in this book is imagine how the manhunt for these killers evolves over more than a decade. I really enjoyed it.
This is Happiness by Niall Williams – Sweet, heartfelt and identifiable. This is a story about that one great love. This is a story about life. It will make you smile, cry and remember your first love and past regrets. An unforgettable and well written story.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks – Brooks has two books in my top 15 this year (see #14) and Horse is her most recent. She uses the human activity centered around a horse – a real horse from the past – to create this fictional story of racism through the centuries.
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler – what a tale of both fact and fiction of the infamous John Wilkes Booth and his family. The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, ego, and family love and regret. This was a perfect Audible on a long road trip last summer.
The Night Ship by Jess Kidd – The real life wreck of the Dutch East Indies flagship Batavia in 1629 is the basis for this fictional novel. Wrecked near Beacon Island, the horrifying experience of the survivors of the Batavia is one of the most barbaric ever recorded. Kidd brilliantly chronicles the events in both fact and myth through the eyes of two small children in The Night Ship.
The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead – A very long saga of a book about a female pilot in the early days of pilots and airplanes. Yes it is long…but I loved it. At first I thought it was about a real person; the character is fictional but comes to life under Shipstead’s genius
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – This is Brooks second appearance this year in my top 15. Loosely based on Eyram Derbyshire, a real village that had to quarantine itself during the black plague. Brooks creates a fictional village in 1666. When an infected bolt of fabric makes its way to the isolated village from London, the protagonist Anna’s life will change forever.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – Young Daniel and his father run an antique bookstore in Barcelona during a time when Spain and the city are reeling from war. Daniel has lost his mother, and in his grief he finds solace in a mysterious book but the search for the author will nearly kill him.
Local Author – The Whiskey Creek Water Company by Jan Walker – Walker, who lives in my local town, presented one of my favorites this year in a sweet and simple book about a tiny fictional village in the Pacific Northwest during the prohibition.
Humor – Guncle by Steven Rowley – Gay Uncle Patrick (Gup) also known to his niece and nephew as Guncle, finds his world turned upside down when a family tragedy back home in Connecticut has him caring for his niece and nephew all summer in Palm Springs. I fell in love with the characters and this family story.
Favorite Author – Delicious by Ruth Reichl- I have been a Reichl fan for years. Celebrated memoir author, food writer and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, her first novel is for foodies as well as anyone who has lost someone they love.
Two of my favorite things to do in the world are travel and read…and for the same reason. Both take you to unknown places, where you meet new people and encounter different ways of life. Both open your eyes to alternative ways of life, educate you and present new ways to think and see the world and beyond. Get out there and explore…books are the perfect way for ANYONE to do that. Just. Go. Read!
Thanks for reading this week’s Reading Wednesday post Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.
British Author and Comedian Richard Osman is the creator of The Thursday Murder Club book series. The Man Who Died Twice is second of the series, but you don’t need to have read previous book to enjoy this fun novel. Here is my book review The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.
A group of retirees, and long-time friends, who at first blush seem a bit of a misfit bumbling group are actually the heroes of this book. Unassuming solvers of murders all.
Osman introduces us to Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim who are trying to quietly enjoy their later years at the Cooper’s Chase retirement village. But this eclectic cast of characters can’t seem to keep out of the murder-solving world, along with their close friends from the local police.
A rollicking set of circumstances keeps the plot moving forward as reserved yet brilliant Elizabeth and demure but observant Joyce lead the charge to find the murderer…and as more murder victims are discovered Ron goes undercover. Meanwhile is a violent attack on Ibrahim part of the murder plot?
Questions are numerous, diamonds are missing, people are dead and suspects are numerous. The Thursday Murder Club to the rescue.
Light, fun and simple read everyone will enjoy. Thanks for reading my book review The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.
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