Set in the remote mining country of West Virginia in the late twenties, Lick Creek is the compelling story of a fiery young woman, Emily Jenkins, and what happens when progress -- and tragedy -- comes to her family's farm. Brad Kessler has a generous and keen eye for natural landscape and its power in human life. In his profound, dramatic first novel, he explores the complex intersections of faith, tradition, and innovation.
After the coal mine deaths of her father, brother, and the first man she loved, Emily struggles to support herself and her mother. When construction begins on the power lines, she blames the intruders for everything that has gone awry -- for her mother's increasing withdrawal from life and for lives already lost. Then, an electrical worker is struck by lightning. Brought to their farmhouse unconscious and badly injured, Joseph is taken in by Emily's mother, and Emily is seduced by the mystery of his past, his immigration from Russia, his own mother's deportations, and the world of immigrants forced to flee persecution in their homelands.
Moving from romance to high drama, Kessler illuminates the role of electricity in the transformation of rural life and the particular electricity between two vastly different people whose worlds and passions collide.
Kirkus Review Lick Creek does as much justice to its time and place as it does to its vivid cast. Still, the star turn unquestionably belongs to the fiercely independent Emily, with her bittersweet and eloquently told story.
The story's abrupt resolution may disappoint, but Kessler's lyrical prose is seductive, and so is his compassionate portrayal of the hillbilly characters whose lives become a working-class American tragedy.
Annie Dillard; author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and The Living
Brad Kessler's first novel is crisp, clean, beautiful. He captures a whole world on the page and embodies the heart of his young heroine as if he'd been born to her. His book about love, tragedy, and electricity is a call for exultation.
Stewart O'Nan; author of The Circus Fire
Both lush and delicate, Lick Creek is a historical romance in the very best sense. Brad Kessler's evocation of the electrification of the hills of West Virginia is a promising debut.
Jill Ciment; author of Teeth of the Dog
Brad Kessler's beautifully written novel captures the quintessential American story of the struggle between the powerful and powerless, progress and its cost, immigration and assimilation. It is a riveting account told with unusual insight.
Anita Shreve; author of The Pilot's Wife Lick Creek hums with electricity, both literally and figuratively. A powerful current laces itself through the novel -- in the writing and in the mesmerizing love story between a coal miner's daughter and a man who brings the wires to a small, flinty settlement in West Virginia.
Recent Reader Reviews
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