Comment: Rich in historical detail, this gorgeously written debut novel tells the
story of a little scrap of humanity coming of age in the boom and bust years of a
California Welsh coal mining in the 1860-70s (close to Mount Diablo in the San Francisco Bay
Area). He's only seven years old but Asher Witherow, the only child of Welsh
parents, is already putting in a 12-hour days at the pit head
alongside his father and the majority of the town, then at night he attends a few
hours of school with the other pit-boys. Life is harsh but there are a few
glimmers of hope, for Asher at least, if not the mining community as a whole.
This is one of those books where the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts that I fear to give you details from the plot, so all I can do is encourage you to read the excerpt for yourself and decide if this might be a good choice for you.
The reviews for The Green Age of Asher Witherow have been generally very positive, and it was also the #1 Booksense recommendation for October (Booksense is the e-commerce element of the American Booksellers Association). For example Booklist says it is an 'accomplished first novel', The San Jose Mercury News describes it as 'dark and foreboding, vivid in character, grounded in the geography of Northern California ... an impressive and satisfying debut novel', and Publishers Weekly says 'Cunningham does a superb job of capturing the grim rhythm of life in the mines...[his] naturalistic prose and the strong characterization of young Asher Witherow make this a worthwhile debut from a noteworthy new author'. The one negative voice comes from Kirkus Reviews who feels that the 'disjointed material and unmatured style make for some rough sledding'.
This review is from the October 19, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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