I always like Barbara Kingsolver novels (here’s my thoughts on Unsheltered), so I was very keen to read this, and then a dear friend told me how much she loved it and I moved it straight to the top of the pile.
Here’s the blurb …
“Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose.”
Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is 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.
I haven’t read David Copperfield, I have seen this adaptation though, so I can’t comment on how close it is to Dickens or on any clever literary conversation that might be happening between the two novels.
I loved it, her writing is superb. It is written in the voice of Demon and it is a very compelling voice. I wanted to hear his story and to know how it ended. It is confronting at times, there is so much poverty, neglect and substance abuse, but it is worth persevering.
I have been telling everyone to read it.