Title: The Hollow Ground
Author: Natalie S. Harnett
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 Goodreads.com: ""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!