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A very strong debut set in the 1960's in Pennsylvania coal country.
the hollow ground
Brigid Hawley is eleven yrs old, a girl that has had to grow up fast, due to the impoverished circumstances of her parents and their dysfunctional lives. When the underground fires consume her aunt's house where her family was living they move into the house of her grandmother and grandfather. Her mother does not get along with the grandmother and her father is far from the family favorite. It is here that things rapidly disintegrate.
The family curse, which they blame on all misfortune, the raging fires and nighttime visits by a man who monitors the air in their house, a mine accident, black lung disease and the total let down of the government and its infernal delays and paperwork. Secrets revealed in both her father's and mothers lives, send things spiraling and causing Brigid to make adjustments in her thinking time and time again.
Brigid is unaccountably the star of this novel, her anguish, wanting to find a home, to keep her parents together are all so heartfelt. I really felt for this young lady. She is wise beyond her years and eventually comes to term with the many lessons she has to learn.
""That's what wanting does, I guess. It takes away everything, even
the pleasure of getting the thing you wanted in the first place."
A hard lesson for a young girl to have to learn.
Absolutely wonderful read. I read it in two days, I couldn't put it down!
Liz D. (Northbrook, IL)
Set against the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania, Hollow Ground explores relationships between and among multigenerational family members, as told through the lens of the daughter, Brigid. She has problems finding a sense of permanence and home.
Emily G. (Clear Lake, MN)
Author Natalie Harnett introduces us to life in the coal region and the family, then turns and twists the plot along the way, revealing unpredictable long kept family
Despite the unusual dark setting and dysfunctional family relationships, I really enjoyed a fast-paced read, full of complex characters and an attention-grabbing plot.
I was intrigued by the setting of this novel--a city on top of a coal mine fire--but from the first few lines of The Hollow Ground, I was captivated by the young narrator's voice. She's a clever girl who is learning about the troubles in her family while trying to discover who she is. Harnett tells a not-unusual coming-of-age story cleverly by allowing the terrain, the gaping holes and fire slowly consuming the town, to parallel the story-line. Harnett tells a layered story with a series of vivid characters. Well worth the time for readers who enjoy character driven fiction.
Kat F. (Palatine, IL)
It pulled me in and didn't let go
I started this book when I received it a month or two ago. Life got in the way and I had to put it down. Last week on a cruise I started it again and just couldn't put it down. It is truly an engrossing story on a couple of levels. I had watched a program a year or two ago about the Centralia coal fires. Learning more about the fires and how the families living in the area dealt with the situation on a daily basis was very interesting on it's own. Add in the personal story of Bridgid and her family, along with the secrets and intrigue associated with those secrets, and you've got one of the best novels I've read in the past several years.
Robin M. (Newark, DE)
The Hollow Ground will leave a hole in your heart
I wanted to read this book because it begins when I am a baby and takes place not far from where I live. The book focuses almost completely on the local area and local events, with little reference to national historical events, which is perfect, as it only adds to the isolated feeling the characters experience throughout the book.
Loralee B. (Madison, WI)
The Hollow Ground
The Hollow Ground is a haunting story, that I completely enjoyed, despite the meanness of some of the characters and the sadness they caused each other.
If you enjoy historical fiction and learning about some of the less known occurrences in US history, I highly recommend this book.
I liked this book even though it took a while to get into it. The characters are well written though they made me angry at their ignorance and lack of compassion. It was interesting to see how names showed Brigid's emotions: those she loved had nicer sounding names like "Daddy" and "Auntie" while those less kindly had short hard names like "Ma" and "Gram". You could feel their character by how Brigid identified them. The history was vivid and the story of a young girl's strength reminded me of the characters in "The Orphan Train".
Mary M. (Lexington, KY)
Fires and Secrets
The coal fires in 1960's Pennsylvania provide the background for this book. The story is narrated by Brigid a young girl and revolves around her family. The family has to deal with hardship and turmoil some of which is caused by the fires and some caused by family secrets. Brigid is determined to uncover these secrets. This book is a family saga, historical novel and a mystery. I really enjoyed it and think it would be an excellent choice for book clubs.