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Celia A. (Takoma Park, MD)
Less than I hoped for
I was interested to read a book set against the backdrop of the Centralia mine fires. But this book turned out to be less than I hoped for. I found it distracting to set the story in the context of a real historical event and then make up place names for it. In terms of the story itself, I felt no real connection to the characters. The only one that I felt came close to being fleshed out was the narrator. And her story was so overly melodramatic that I found myself thinking what more could possibly happen to this kid.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
"Valley of the Ashes"
Uncontrolled fires burn beneath the decaying town of Barrendale, PA, creating an apt metaphor for the secrets simmering just below the surface of the 'cursed,' coal-mining Howley family in this bleak coming-of-age novel. The unusual and atmospheric setting, and the resulting below/above-the-façade tension, are the novel's strong suit; less so the characters (sorry, but Brigid is no Scout Finch) and somewhat predictable mechanisms of the plot. Final analysis: good, but not great.
Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
Sad, but a good read
I wanted to read this book, because we live fairly close to the area where it's set. Also, my daughter & grandsons had visited there, and I'd just read Bill Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods, which mentioned his visit there.
The family backgrounds of the characters were disturbing and sad, and there weren't too many "happy" moments in the book, but it was one of those books that you just "had" to keep reading till the end.
I liked the book and would recommend it to book clubs, if only for the discussions it would engender. The book would be an eye-opener to young people, as to how people lived back then, as well.
Really enjoyed this novel. I was drawn into story immediately. I actually cared about characters so much that I looked up more information about the coal mine fires. I would read this author again. A true test is reading without being distracted by husband channel surfing. This novel passed. Thank you BookBrowse
Michelle M. (Palm City, FL)
I measure a book by whether I can't put it down as soon as I start it. I could not get into this book. It jumped around too much and was depressing, The book moved along towards the end. I felt sorry for the daughter Brigid but even her character was confusing. I will not recommend this book to my book club.
Barbara B. (Alta Loma, CA)
The Hollow Ground
Although The Hollow Ground dealt with a very difficult subject matter, I found the story very interesting since it was based on real life. Ms Harnett's description of Barrendale placed me among the soot, ash, & smoke. I could just picture the land and what it was like down in he bootlegger's hole. I felt she was right on with her characters and I liked all of them, especially, Gram who carried so much guilt. The subject matter was educational and I think high school students would enjoy this book very much.
Carol B. (Orland Park, IL)
Life Near The Mines
I asked to review this book because I had never read a book on the lives of those who lived and worked near the mines. What a tragic story. The author did a very good job with the character developments and in her description of the difficult way of life. This family so dysfunctional that you only hoped there would be a little happiness at the end. Yet the young daughter, Brigid, proved to be a very intelligent young lady and tried so hard to save the family she so loved. A very hard life.
Mary S. (Pinson, AL)
The Hollow Ground is an Excellent Read
Fiction based on real life events is one of my favorite genres; and The Hollow Ground is one of the best books I've read so far this year. Natalie Harnett tells a very interesting story of Brigid Howley and her family, whose lives are torn apart by these uncontrollable underground mine fires during the 1960s. This is a very emotional story with a lot of misplaced anger that comes out as family secrets are revealed. I highly recommend this book, it is a story you will continue to think about long after you finish reading the book.