Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

Title: The Hollow Ground
Author: Natalie S. Harnett
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: May 13, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From ""We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet."

My Two Cents:

The historical events in "The Hollow Ground" are centered on the burning of towns like Centralia, Pennsylvania, which started in the 1960s due to coal under the ground igniting (the reason why this happened is debated). The fires still burn today and Centralia is all but a ghost town. These events reflect the turmoil going on in the Howley family. As the fires drive people out of their homes, the Howley family is falling apart. The historic detail lends a haunting setting for this story of a family in free fall.

Even with all of the events happening throughout the town as people begin to leave, the characters are really at the center of this story. Harnett paints a stark picture of the proud, but chaotic Howley family. Some of them are determined to stay as their neighbors leave and their home life keeps getting worse. Some are determined to go even if it means that they are only running away from problems that will eventually catch up with them.

These characters are fascinating. I really liked reading about them. Harnett does a really good job of showing all of their inner turmoil. Brigid, the Howley daughter, is at that age where she begins to realize that her family is in trouble. She has to grow up quickly and in a way, she believes that it is up to her to try to keep the peace in her family but how can she when so much seems to be going wrong? Her father seems to only want to run away and hide. Her mother is impulsive and brash and is sure that she deserves more. Brigid is worried about her brother, who has an intellectual disability of some sort that no one seems to want to understand.

If you like character driven stories with a historical element and you don't mind hard subjects, this would be a good pick for you!


  1. This sounds like a good read. I will most definitely have to check it out. Great review!


  2. I never knew about the burning of towns. You learn something new every day. The characters themselves sound very strong and must make a very interesting story.

    1. Isn't that creepy? I can't believe the towns are still burning!

  3. I'm absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed The Hollow Ground. Thanks SO much for such a thoughtful, wonderful review. Best wishes~Natalie S. Harnett

  4. I've heard of these underground fires but it almost seems impossible that they would burn so long! I definitely want to read this one!


Hi! Welcome to A Bookish Affair. If you leave a comment, I will try to either reply here or on your site!

As of 6/6/2011, this book is now an awards free zone. While I appreciate the awards, I would rather stick to reviewing more great books for you than trying to fill the requirements.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...