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Reviews of Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead

A Novel

by Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver X
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
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  • Published:
    Oct 2022, 560 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of Unsheltered and Flight Behavior, a brilliant novel which enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero's unforgettable journey to maturity.

"Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose."

Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It's the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens' anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can't imagine leaving behind.

1

First, I got myself born. A decent crowd was on hand to watch, and they've always given me that much: the worst of the job was up to me, my mother being let's just say out of it.

On any other day they'd have seen her outside on the deck of her trailer home, good neighbors taking notice, pestering the tit of trouble as they will. All through the dog-breath air of late summer and fall, cast an eye up the mountain and there she'd be, little bleach-blonde smoking her Pall Malls, hanging on that railing like she's captain of her ship up there and now might be the hour it's going down. This is an eighteen-year-old girl we're discussing, all on her own and as pregnant as it gets. The day she failed to show, it fell to Nance Peggot to go bang on the door, barge inside, and find her passed out on the bathroom floor with her junk all over the place and me already coming out. A slick fish-colored hostage picking up grit from the vinyl tile, worming and shoving around because I'm still inside ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Demon Copperhead is a captivating coming-of-age tale set in rural Virginia. The novel is a contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, spanning the late 1990s to the present day. Kingsolver achieves the impossible, creating a narrative that stands up to its source material and, by some measures, may even surpass it. Although Kingsolver incorporates many clever nods to the original, readers need not be familiar with David Copperfield to fully appreciate Demon Copperhead. Those who do know the Dickens novel, though, will likely get a kick out of how Kingsolver adapts the plot to a new time, place and set of social circumstances...continued

Full Review (693 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post
Kingsolver has effectively reignited the moral indignation of the great Victorian novelist to dramatize the horrors of child poverty in the late 20th century.

New York Times
Kingsolver's prose is often splendid... It's hard to think of another living novelist who could take a stab at Dickens and rise above the level of catastrophe.

Booklist (starred review)
Kingsolver's capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor's tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens' David Copperfield…Kingsolver's tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.

Kirkus Review (starred review)
Absorbing…Readers see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath Demon's self-protective exterior…Emotionally engaging is Demon's fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it…An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

LitHub
Damon-cum-Demon is a character for the ages, on a par with Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield, but with way less privilege and way more pluck. The voice of the eponymous main character is that unique, that unparalleled, that page-devouringly fresh. I can hardly wait to finish it so I can go back and savor it anew.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] deeply evocative story...Kingsolver's account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery.

Author Blurb Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
Demon is a voice for the ages—akin to Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield—only even more resilient. I'm crazy about this book, which parses the epidemic in a beautiful and intimate new way. I think it's her best.

Reader Reviews

Marilyn

Keeping my emotions in check.
I can’t remember many books that have nearly devastated me reading about this sweet, good child that goes through horrible circumstances most of his life. I grew up in Appalachia. I left. My brother is so tied to our hometown and his “football” life ...   Read More
Zena Ryder

A wonderful novel — that's also timely and important to read
The first chapter of David Copperfield is titled: "I Am Born." The opening sentence of Demon Copperhead: "First, I got myself born." Barbara Kingsolver had wanted to write a novel about the human individuals behind the statistics of the opioid ...   Read More
Cloggie Downunder

Moving and thought-provoking: a wonderful read.
Demon Copperhead is the ninth novel by award-winning best-selling American author, Barbara Kingsolver. It’s in August of his eleventh year that life falls apart for Damon Fields. Despite his inauspicious beginning and life in a double-wide trailer ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Illustration by Phiz from David CopperfieldBarbara Kingsolver’s novel Demon Copperhead is largely based on Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield.

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) wrote 15 novels during his career, the eighth of which he ponderously dubbed The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). Known familiarly as David Copperfield, the novel actually began with Dickens’ attempts, between 1845 and 1848, to write an autobiography. His friend and biographer, John Forster, recalled that Dickens ultimately abandoned the nonfiction account because writing it was simply too painful. Dickens, in fact, kept the story of his impoverished youth...

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