A rich, coming of age tale set during the boom and bust years of an immigrant coal mining town in 19th-century California.
In this mesmerizing first novel by a gifted young writer, the drama of California's rich immigrant history and
the freshness and wonder of childhood combine with darker elements of legend,
magic and mystery. Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler calls it
"a startling accomplishment . . . an enchanting novel by a lushly talented
young writer." Tom Franklin, author of Hell at the Breech, says,
"Cunningham is a writer we'll be hearing a lot more from." And Laurel
Johnson of the Midwest Book Review calls it "a book to be savored .
. . It has my highest recommendation."
Born while the Civil War is raging further east, young Asher Witherow seems marked for an extraordinary future. Anything but typical, he captures the attention of the eerily watchful apprentice minister and schoolteacher, Josiah Lyte, and of young Thomas Motion, a strange boy who can see into the deepest darkness.
When Thomas mysteriously vanishes, only Asher knows the truth of what has happened to him, and he must decide whether to keep his knowledge secret or reveal what he believes to be his own unforgivable mistake. It is an agonizing moral decision that will forever affect the lives of those closest to him and that will ultimately have a profound impact on all of Nortonville.
In breathtaking language that contrasts the striking landscape of California's Diablo Valley with the harsh details of life in an 1870s coal-mining boom town, M. Allen Cunningham takes us to an extraordinary time and place. It is a time when the brutal hardships of daily life are leavened by a sense of miraculous change just around the corner. It is a place of sensual, almost supernatural beauty, peopled with remarkable characterslike the highly unconventional Lyte, the "pagan" midwife Sarah Norton and Asher's beloved friend and closest confidante, the otherworldly Anna Flood.
Impeccably imagined, sensitive and real in its portrayal of a young boy confronting unanswerable questions with grace and strength, The Green Age of Asher Witherow is a remarkable book that convincingly shatters the equation of childhood and innocence.
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The supply seems to be inexhaustible. From the figures in my possession I have reasons to believe that over 2,250,000 tons of coal have been shipped to the market from the Diablo mines; and considerably more than half of that immense amount was shipped from the Black Diamond mines at Nortonville. Where is the mine in the State that can show a better record in regard to the past, or as bright a prospect for the future?
Letter from Nortonville, Contra Costa Gazette, June 28, 1880
On a boggy day in 1806 a detachment of Spanish soldiers apprehended a band of Bay Miwok Indians in a marsh at the foot of a solitary California mountain. Commanded to redeliver the natives to the stern grace of the mission they'd fled, the Spaniards detained them...
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.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (285 words).
Between 1830 and 2000 more than 15,000 people were killed in USA mines. I assume similar historic figures could be found for any coal mining country. For example, in Britain over 90,000 men, women and children lost their lives or were injured in mines between 1850 and 1914 (for a comprehensive resource of UK mining information see DiggingUpThePast.org.uk). Today, in industrialized countries, coal mining deaths and accidents have been much reduced because machines have taken over from the men and boys who used to work the coal face; deaths do still occur; for example the 2001 explosion in Brookwood, Alabama that killed 13; and there are health issues related to mining coal. However, this ...
If you liked The Green Age of Asher Witherow, try these:
Set amongst the deadly coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut that will "grab you by the brisket and not let go" (Gary Shteyngart)
Bleak, harrowing, and beautifully told, In the Garden of Stone is a haunting saga of endurance and redemption.
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